Photos: Mel Saltiel/Triathlon NZ

By Kent Gray/
Ainsley Thorpe has captured her third World Triathlon Cup medal in a dramatic Wollongong photo-finish to edge ever closer to her dream of Olympic Games redemption in Paris.

The Cambridge-based Aucklander held on in a mass sprint to claim bronze at World Triathlon Cup Wollongong on Saturday, mirroring her position a week ago at the Oceania Standard Distance Championships in Taupo.

Thorpe was ever present throughout the rain-soaked sprint race to finish just behind Swede Tilda Mansson (1:00:39) and Columbian Maria Carolina Velasquez Soto.

The 26-year-old Kiwi edged world No.17 and two-time Dutch Olympian Rachel Klamer for the final spot on the podium in ‘The Gong”. Soto, Thorpe and Klamer were all credited with the same time of 1:00:40.

Countrywoman Olivia Thornbury featured early on the bike before fading to 18th in 1:01:36.

The result cements Thorpe as the clear Kiwi No.2 with the Paris Olympic Games qualification window set to close in May 27. It’s another confidence boosting result as she seeks to peak for Paris after a challenging Olympic debut in 2021 where she crashed out on the slippery roads that confronted the women in Tokyo and recorded a DNF.

Saturday’s bronze matched Thorpe’s 3rd at the Antwerp ITU Triathlon World Cup in June 2019 and but for the “thickness of a trisuit”, as Trevor Harris said in the Triathlonlive.TV commentary, she could well have emulated her silver medal behind Nicole van der Kaay at World Triathlon Cup New Plymouth in March last year.

Thorpe tagged onto the back of what eventually became a group of seven on the 5km run and never looked uncomfortable.

“It was really fast, I mean coming around that last roundabout it was not very long to the finish so yeah, didn’t quite get the position I wanted for the sprint finish but yeah I thought it was second, third or fourth,” Thorpe said.

“It was really close so I’m glad, I’m stoked that I got a medal and I didn’t get fourth place. I was aiming for the win today but a podium is pretty good as well.”


Thorpe’s decision to race less in the early part of 2024, essentially placing quality over quantity, seems to be paying off as she preps for Paris. A nomination to the NZOC still needs to be secured but Saturday’s result, on the back of her Kiwi best 17th at last year’s Olympic Test Event in Paris, has only enhanced that likelihood.

“Next for me is Yokohama and Cagliari, and yeah, got a couple of World Series races to see where I’m at [at] the top level.”

Earlier, Tauranga’s Lulu Johnson claimed the silver medal in the Australian Junior Women’s Championship.

More to follow…

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