Despite a week of miserable weather, Sunday, September 17th offered sunshine for the Age Group Athletes racing in the ITU Triathlon Grand Final in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
85 New Zealand Age Group representatives traveled to the Netherlands with the hopes of being crowned a world champion in their age group, two were successful, and a further three placed third in their respective categories.
Two-thirds of the New Zealand team were racing in the Olympic distance race, whilst the remaining athletes opted for the sprint distance race. Both races shared, for the most part, the same course, with the difference being in the number of laps completed. Despite this similarity, each race offered its own difficulties.
While the Olympic distance race faced a cool, yet near still marina waters for their 1500m swim on race morning, the sprint distance athletes challenged a slightly windier and choppier 750m swim.
Daniel Whitburn of Auckland City Triathlon Club raced against 27 other athletes in the 18-19 age category. A strong swim set him up for a good race amongst these athletes, however, his months of training paid their dividends- Daniel winning the Gold medal.
Fiona Crombie of Canterbury Triathlon Club was the other kiwi athlete to meet the finish line before all others in her category. This was an impressive feat had beat 76 other females. Finishing only a few minutes after Fiona, was Natalie Hardaker of Wellington Triathlon Club. Natalie joined Fiona on the females 35-39 podium in third place.
Neil Fleming was New Zealand oldest competitor, who raced in the 80-84 age category. This was the second world championships Neil has raced in the last few weeks. He had earlier competed in the ITU Aquabike Championships in Canada in late August. Neil experienced similar success to the earlier race, as he collected another bronze medal for his collection.
The only kiwi triathlete to earn a podium position in the sprint distance race was Adam Martin of Manawatu Triathlon Club. Adam competed in what was one of the most competitive age groups, the 16-19 year olds. With a mere 13 seconds separating first from third place, Adam was welcomed down the finish shoot as he sprinted to secure the third place.
The New Zealand team lived up to their supportive reputation, cheering all their athletes as they raced. Although delighted with the results which saw athletes on the podium, the team consensus was pure pride and joy for all athletes who competed.
Athletes will now return to New Zealand where the national season of racing and qualifications for next year’s world championships will commence. If you would like to find out more about representing New Zealand abroad, visit https://triathlon.kiwi/age-group-policies-selection-criteria-nomination-links/