Hamilton triathlete Hannah Knighton unleashed a desperate sprint to finish fifth in the junior women’s race at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Rotterdam.
The bitterly cold conditions in Rotterdam forced organisers to delay the Paratriathlon racing by an hour, with the elite junior women and under-23 men racing in the late afternoon and early evening.
Knighton led the New Zealand efforts with her fifth placing in the junior women wile Gisborne’s Tayler Reid was the best of the Kiwis in the under-23 men in 11th place.
The 17-year-old Knighton, one of the youngest in the field, enjoyed an outstanding race over the sprint distance. She was out of the 750km swim with the front pack behind leader Fuka Sega (Japan), and negotiated the 20km bike around the tight turns with the front group behind Sega and American Taylor Knibb.
While Great Britain’s Kate Waugh had the best run legs to join Knibb and Sega in the battle for the medals, Knighton was locked in a battle with Austria’s Therese Feuersinger for fourth. The Kiwi sprinted hard with the pair given the same time of 1:02.24 but the Austrian was awarded fourth, a minute behind winner Knibb.
Nineteen-year-old Ari Graham from Christchurch finished 15th just over two minutes behind the winner. She was out with the leaders from the swim and rode strongly with the front pack on the bike but her 19:15 effort for the 5km run could not match the speed of the leaders.
“It was an excellent effort from Hannah who was at the front end of the race all day. She still has two more years in the junior division so she has an exciting future in the sport,” said Triathlon New Zealand high performance director, Mark Elliott.
“Likewise Ari has another year in juniors and is improving very quickly with John Hellemans as her coach and we can expect big things from both of these young talents going forward.”
Reid led the under-23 men’s race out of the 1500m swim in 18:31, and formed in the lead bike pack to be out of T2 with a 10-strong group in the front of the field.
Frenchman Raphael Montoya unleashed a 31:07 effort for the 10km run to edge out compatriot Dorian Coninx for the title ahead of Australian Luke Willian who also overcame a 15 second penalty.
Reid, who has not competed in many full Olympic distance races in his young career, paced himself well over the 10km run in cold conditions with his 33:21 effort for the 10km run leaving him in 11th, two minutes behind the winner.
“Tayler has not run this distance too often yet and he impressed with how he paced himself accordingly. Like the girls, he still has another year in this category and when he develops his run then he could have a big future.”
Unfortunately his teammate Trent Thorpe from Auckland did not finish after suffering from an asthma complaint during the race.
The remaining four elite races are on Saturday (local time) with Dan Hoy (Auckland) and Janus Staufenburg (Wanaka) in the Junior Men; Nicole van der Kaay (Taupo), Elise Salt (Auckland) and Elizabeth Stannard (Palmerston North)in the Under-23 Women; Ryan Sissons (Cambridge) and Sam Ward (Auckland) in the Elite Men and Andrea Hewitt (Christchurch) in the Elite Women.
Junior women: Taylor Knibb (USA) 1:01.22, 1; Kate Waugh (GBR) 1:01.38, 2; Fuka Sega (JPN) 1:02.05, 3; Hannah Knighton (NZL) and Therese Feuersinger (AUT) 1:02.24, equal 4. Also NZers: Ari Graham 1:03.37, 15;
Under-23 men: Raphael Montoya (FRA) 1:51.28, 1; Dorian Coninx 1:51.32, 2; Luke Aillian (AUS) 1:51.48, 3. Also NZ: Tayler Reid 1:53.39, 11; Trent Thorpe dnf.