Photos: Simon Dawson Photography

By Kent Gray/ in Taupo
Matt Hauser and Ellie Hoitink ensured Australia will lay claim to three of the season’s four major continental short course triathlon titles but there was ample Kiwi compensation at Sunday’s Oceania Standard Distance Championships in Taupo.

Tayler Reid’s silver either side of Hauser and Brandon Copeland in the men’s race and bronze for Ainsley Thorpe behind Hoitink and Richelle Hill in the women’s battle at Wharewaka Point saw the duo crowned New Zealand Standard Distance champions for 2024.

Thorpe’s Kiwi best 8th at World Triathlon Cup Napier in late February means she’s also the 2024 NZ Sprint champion as the Cambridge-based Aucklander continues to stake a strong claim to be Kiwi female No.2 behind Nicole van der Kaay at this summer’s Paris Olympics.

Ellie Hoitink breaks the tape for a victory that reignites her Paris hopes after a broken collarbone.

A big points haul at the showpiece Oceania championship will also be invaluable for Reid as he looks to get his Olympic Qualification ranking – 50th before Sunday’s race – inside the top 30 to give New Zealand a shot of three men on the start line in Paris.

Both Reid and Thorpe will line up in next Saturday’s World Triathlon Cup Wollongong sprint and are both scheduled to race WTCS Yokohama (May 11) and Cagliari (May 25), the latter two days before the qualification window for the XXXIII Olympiad closes.

Reid is also hopeful of a start at World Cup Chengdu in China on April 29 as he squeezes in as many starts as possible in the remaining window to bolster his ranking.

After the abandonment of the WTCS opener in Abu Dhabi, Hauser added Taupo to his schedule and the Aussie No.1 didn’t disappoint, edging away from Reid on the 3rd lap of the decisive 10km even if “I didn’t feel amazing on the run”. Earlier Hauser, Reid and Aussie Brayden Mercer had set a good pace during the swim in windswept Lake Taupo to form what eventually became a breakaway group of eight on the bike also including Copeland, Jack Crome, Oscar Dart, Czech rep David Martin and Cantabrian Saxon Morgan.

Morgan suffered a cramp attack on the first lap of the run to finish 11th in 1:50:21 with Wanaka’s Janus Staufenberg the second best Kiwi in 6th in 1:49:03.

But this was Hauser’s day in Taupo.

“For me it’s all about just getting back into the groove of racing and learning how to hurt myself again,” Hauser told after winning in 1:47:20, 29 seconds clear of Reid.

“It’s [been] a long period off racing, you know my last race was Noosa last year In November, so just to get the cogs turning again and yeah, loved it out there and can’t wait for the next one.”

Reid was pleased with his race, capped with a 32:00 10km effort – bettered only by Hauser (31:32), 4th placed Jacob Birtwhistle (31:25) and Staufenberg (31:51).

“I definitely wanted to get a bunch of points today and definitely achieved that goal,” Reid said.

“Just really, really pleased to be feeling like myself and back in the race and competing at the front. That’s what we enjoy about this sport. Pushing up the front end was a good feeling to have, even if it was only the first five 5 [on the run].

“I haven’t raced a standard in a while. It was good. I was a little bit conservative in the first 5k because that second 5k really put me in the hurt box.”  

In the earlier women’s race, Hoitink ran a 35:35 10km split to win in 2:03:33 – 22 seconds clear of Hill. Thorpe finished in 2:04:08 to go one better than her 4th placing at last year’s Oceania Standard Distance championships in Port Douglas.

She was made to work for it by Dunedin-based, Invercargill doctor-in-training Olivia Thornbury who was 4th in 2:04:09, out-kicked by Thorpe in a finishing chute sprint but nonetheless satisfied with what was incredibly Thornbury’s first standard distance start.

Brea Roderick and Eva Goodisson gave New Zealand two other top 10 finishes to celebrate, Roderick 6th in 2:05:15 and Goodisson 9th in 2:07:36. The Kiwi quartet’s 10km splits – Thorpe (36:13), Thornbury (36:16), Roderick (37:21) and Goodisson (39:44) – were interesting data points afterwards.

For Thorpe, the tussle with Thornbury was timely to test a big block of training which was longer than anticipated after the weather forced cancellation of WTCS Abu Dhabi.

“The run, my legs just felt, my calves were just a little bit crampy on the first couple of laps and then I actually felt a bit better on the next two laps so…” Thorpe said after what was just her second race since October.

“The front two girls [Hoitink and Hill] went out really fast, a little bit too fast…yeah, I didn’t really want to blow up today, [rather] wanted to finish strong and that’s exactly what I did.

“Yeah, Olivia was running really well today and I was lucky I had a good little sprint on me.”

The false start in Abu Dhabi actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise, enabling Thorpe to mix a longer than expected block of training with a block of racing that will see her kick on to Wollongong, Yokohama and Cagliari.

“I’ve had four solid weeks of trying to hold over 25 hours [of training per week] and then I also tried to do 20 hours this week so I wouldn’t say I was 100 percent today but I was still enough to be able to race. It’s trying to work out which races you actually want to taper for, and which ones are more important.

“Today was good points so it is an important race to do well at but obviously my focus is Paris and I just really want to make sure I get there on top form.”

For the record, the third of the four Oceania titles prefaced earlier was claimed by Jaz Hedgeland at the Oceania Sprint Championships in Devonport last month. Fortunately, Dylan McCullough saved New Zealand from a ‘Green and Gold’ sweep with victory in the men’s race in Tasmania although you won’t have to travel too far to find an Aussie willing and able to remind you that Sophie Linn and Callum McClusky also made it an Aussie 1-2 at World Cup Napier.

Roll on the 2025 Oceania season and some Kiwi revenge. Perhaps in Paris too!

Oceania Standard Distance Championship – 2024 Results
Wharewaka Point, Taupo – April 14, 2024

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