The next generation of Kiwi triathletes put their hands up in a big way at the Quality Hotel Plymouth International Triathlon World Cup today, with Nicole van der Kaay and Sam Ward collecting silver medals on a superb day of racing in front of huge crowds at Ngamotu Beach.
While the gold medals went to Kirsten Kasper (USA) and Declan Wilson (AUS), the biggest cheers were reserved for the young Kiwis, with 22-year-old van der Kaay well and truly stepping out of the shadow of Andrea Hewitt with her first ever World Cup podium while Ward backed up after a fourth-place finish at the Mooloolaba World Cup a fortnight back.
The women’s race was played out to a background of rain showers that made the technical bike course dangerous to take risks on, with Emma Jeffcoat (AUS) the highest profile casualty, falling on the hairpin turn heading into transition, the Mooloolaba winner would soldier on but finish off the pace.
Kasper was first out of the water and often on the front during the bike leg, toying with a solo breakaway before being reeled in by a chase pack that included van der Kaay, Hewitt and fellow Kiwis Sophie Corbidge and Elise Salt.
Once on to the run it was a head to head battle between the American and the young Kiwi, with van der Kaay sticking to the heels of Kasper throughout, only fading in the final 200 metres as the experienced American powered to the win, with van der Kaay delighted in her silver medal and a breakthrough performance.
“It was awesome, the support on home soil, I can’t thank them enough, the cheering the whole way around was amazing. This is an incredible breakthrough for me, this past year I have been around the 4th, 5th and 6th area so it is awesome to crack the podium and do it here on home soil.”
The Taupo athlete credited her coach with instilling the belief in her ahead of today’s race, one that sees her head to the Commonwealth Games full of confidence.
“My coach gave me a few tips, said be aggressive and believe in myself, I just went for it, it was awesome to be able to run with her. It was an epic final hit out, ten days now before the Commonwealth Games so this is a huge boost for sure.”
Kasper loved every minute of the experience, even if the crowd was cheering for the young lady in black.
“This is my fourth week in a row racing, so I am pleased to come away with the win. These huge crowds were supporting Nicole the whole way, I was trying to feed off that support and energy, it was exciting to see her up with me, she made me work really hard for it.”
Claire Michel ran superbly into the bronze medal, repeating her performance of 2017, the Belgian athlete came through the pack after trailing the lead pack in off the bike, with a slow transition to the run in the end the difference in the colour of medal on the day.
Declan Wilson was a popular winner of the men’s race, one that had numerous different scenario’s playing out, with Kiwi Tayler Reid leading out of the water. The Gisborne athlete did not have sufficient support early in the bike
however, and his lead group of four were quickly swallowed up by the chasers forming a large lead group.
Ryan Baillie (AUS) then risked it all, clearing out on the final lap to establish a 15 second lead on to the run, but he was quickly reeled in by Wilson, before a huge scrap developed for the silver and bronze medals, with Ward spectacularly sprinting to silver, leaving Matt McElroy (USA) with another bronze to add to the silver he collected here last year.
“I was super hungry after coming fourth two weeks ago in Mooloolaba, I think the crowd was the difference on a day like today and powered me home to second place,” said Ward. “I was just trying to save myself, I was hurting but just sticking to them and saving myself for that one sprint. That helped me out with the others being a bit indecisive with their attacks, but the home crowd got me home definitely.
“Conditions were perfect, couldn’t have asked for better in the ‘Naki, the bike was tough and technical, and the run was just awesome, a highlight of my career, second in a World Cup at home, there is nothing better so far for sure.”
Wilson was delighted with his win, suggesting it has been some time in the making.
“I wanted that ever since 2013 when I won the U23 World Champs bronze, since then I have been floundering around for the past five years, I am so happy with that. I just thought I had a good tempo on the run so tried to hurt the boys at the start. I thought the others might think ‘he won’t hold on’ especially on recent results.
“Coming into the last lap up the hill I gave it everything, I saw the big screen and thought ‘yeah I have a bit of space’, I was running scared the whole time but so glad I won it. This would be the single biggest victory of my career, I am so happy.”
In the earlier WIL Sport Oceania Championships, the New Zealand women won gold and silver with Hannah Knighton and Ari Graham standing proudly on the podium. With Canadian Desirae Ridenour winning the race but not eligible for the Oceania medals or titles, the gold went to Knighton with Graham winning silver ahead of Australian Romy Wolstencroft in third.
In the Junior Men’s race it was an Australian trifecta, with Lorcan Redmond taking gold ahead of the Schofield twins Luke and Jayden. Best of the Kiwis was Dylan McCullough in fourth, who in the process booked a place at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games as the highest finishing eligible (U18) New Zealander.
Quality Hotel Plymouth International ITU World Cup
Sprint 750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run
Gold Declan Wilson, Australia, 58:20 Silver Sam Ward, New Zealand, 58:22 Bronze Matt McElroy, USA, 58:24
Full Results https://www.triathlon.org/…/2018_new_plymouth_itu_tr…/321057
Gold Kirsten Kasper, USA, 1:03:20
Silver, Nicole van der Kaay, New Zealand, 1:03:28
Bronze, Claire Michel, Belgium, 1:03:37
Full results https://www.triathlon.org/…/2018_new_plymouth_itu_tr…/321058
WIL Sport Oceania Junior Championships
Sprint 750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run
Gold Lorcan Redmond, Australia, 1:00:17
Silver Luke Schofield, Australia, 1:00:24
Bronze Jayden Schofield, Australia, 1:00:37
Full Results https://www.triathlon.org/…/2018_new_plymouth_otu_tr…/321512
Junior Women (note the race was won by Desirae Ridenour (Canada) who is not eligible for the Oceania medals)
Gold Hannah Knighton, New Zealand, 1:07:46
Silver Ari Graham, New Zealand, 1:09:00
Bronze Romy Wolstencroft, Australia, 1:10:14
Full Results https://www.triathlon.org/…/2018_new_plymouth_otu_tr…/321513
Written by Andrew Dewhurst – Media Manager, New Plymouth World Cup