Photos: World Triathlon

By Kent Gray/

Largely lost in the hullabaloo surrounding Dylan McCullough’s runaway, hooter-to-tape victory at the Oceania Sprint Championships a week ago was Saxon Morgan’s equally momentous 5th place result.

On Sunday, the 23-year-old Cantabrian enjoyed the limelight all to himself with 10th at World Triathlon Cup Hong Kong. It was career-best result poured on top of his breakout performance in Devonport and showed Morgan might just be ready to fulfil the promise he showed by finishing 8th in the U23 race at the 2022 World Championships in Abu Dhabi.

Morgan’s 54:24 effort was backed-up by a solid 16th place from fast-finishing Kiwi team-mate Janus Staufenberg in 54:35. Staufenberg clocked 15:42 to Morgan’s 16:19 for the 5km run by found himself with too much ground to make-up after missing the initial bike breakaway. The Wanaka 24-year-old’s partner and fellow Otago Medical School student Olivia Thornbury was a disappointed 26th in the women’s race won by Brit Sian Rainsley from Americans Katie Zaferes and Kirsten Jasper.

Janus Staufenberg

But this was Morgan’s moment, from a parochial Team NZL standpoint at least.  

“I probably rate that my best result in terms of quality of field. I was ranked 39th coming into it so to come out 10th, I was super stoked,” Morgan told after Alberto Gonzalez Garcia and Antonio Serrat Seoane had made it a Spanish 1-2 in Hong Kong ahead of Japan’s Kenji Nener.

The result eclipsed Morgan’s previous World Cup best of 22nd in Napier last month and continued an encouraging 2024 trend after 15th place in his final U23 Worlds appearance in Pontevedra last September was small consolation for a challenging 2023 results wise.

“I was coming into this race with a fair amount of confidence from last week in Devonport. I’m a very confidence-based athlete and once I have a few good results under my belt, I seem to carry that on throughout the next few races, so really happy to come home with 10th.”

Has there been a change-up in your off-season training regime, Saxon?

“I haven’t changed anything with [coach] John Hellemans specifically, just been really consistent all summer, just big, solid weeks, week-in and week-out and it’s finally starting to pay off now,” he said.

“So yeah, super stoked with the last two races and hopefully more to come. It’s a big confidence kick leading into Taupo next and then Wollongong, so hoping to really step it up in those two.”

Taupo will host the Oceania Triathlon Championships on April 14, a week before the final Down Under World Cup of the season in Wollongong on April 20. While others are chasing critical Paris Olympic Games qualification points, Morgan’s goal is longer term. He’s also mindful a string of three good results don’t make a season.

“Yeah, Los Angeles [the XXXIV Olympiad in 2028] is still my goal and just slowly starting to work my way towards that, I guess. Still a long way to go and still a lot to more improvement to be done to be anywhere near that but, yeah, stoked.”

Morgan’s World Triathlon Ranking of 110th will certainly improve when the weekly re-ranking is published on Tuesday morning NZT.

A solid week of training at the Hong Kong Sports Institute post Devonport helped him stay connected to the leaders out of water and then pull plenty of big turns on the front of a breakaway pack on the bike quickly whittled down to 12.  

I got a little bit swum over at the start but found some clear water and managed to come out towards the front of the race and got in the breakaway of about 12-15 guys and we all worked pretty solidly together.

“Came off the bike, had a pretty average T2, just ran past my bike [station] and had to run back again into the traffic a little bit, but found my rhythm on the first K and a half of the run and felt alright. I got pretty hot halfway through the run and definitely faded between K three and four but managed to pull myself together for the last K and hold onto 10th.

“That’s my best World Cup result for sure.”

Thornbury, meanwhile, never recovered from a slow start in the swim, finishing in 1:01:32 to Rainsley’s 59:44. It was more invaluable learning to tack on encouraging bronze medal and 9th place finishes at Oceania Cup Wanaka and World Cup Napier respectively as she and Staufenburg also eye Taupo and Wollongong.

“Not my best today, body didn’t quite fire how I would’ve liked it to,” Thornbury said.

“Got caught up in the carnage of the swim so hadn’t set my race up like I had intended. Kept fighting till the end…it was very hot out there.

“I’ll take a lot away from today in what was a world class field. Despite my disappointment, I’m grateful for the valuable experience which I will take into the next race.”

Full results are available HERE.

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