Triathlon phenomenon Cameron Brown will chase a remarkable ninth victory in this weekend’s 23rd Port of Tauranga Half at Mount Maunganui.
Brown’s place in the annals of the sport is already etched in stone but the 39 year old is still passionate about his craft and far from ready to hang up his shoes.
The Aucklander has defied his age by stepping up his training for the Port of Tauranga Half on Saturday, which doubles as Triathlon New Zealand’s national championships.
“I used to have a big break of a month or six weeks after the world championships in Hawaii and Ironman New Zealand. But I have found that coming back after those breaks I developed injuries, and so now I tend to continue to tick over so that when I am ready to push hard in training, there’s a better chance of staying injury-free,” Brown said.
“I only had two weeks after Hawaii and even then almost got injured when I got back into things.”
He has already completed a Half, finishing second to Auckland’s Callum Millward in Taupo last month.
“In the last few years I have only just begun training and it has been a push to be in shape for Mount Maunganui. But I raced well at Taupo with little running behind me and I am happy with my progress for this weekend.
“Along with Ironman New Zealand, it’s my favourite race. It is where my career started and I love coming back to race there. It’s world class, it has a fantastic atmosphere and there’s no other race in the country quite like it.”
Brown had his maiden victory at the Port of Tauranga Half in 1998, leading to seven straight wins at the Mount with his streak ended by Australian Craig Alexander who went on to win the Ironman world title three times.
The kiwi was named along with Alexander among the 10 most influential male Ironman athletes in the history of the sport.
Brown came back to win at the Mount in 2007 and was runner-up in 2008, 2009 and last year.
“I finished behind Callum (Millward) last year and at Taupo so he will definitely be the one to beat. He is probably the best of a pretty talented group of young athletes who are all fast.
“My big goal is always Ironman New Zealand in March so I don’t cut back and taper for the Mount. But a ninth win would be fantastic.”
And who would bet against that or indeed a 10th title to match his deeds at Ironman New Zealand.
“I still love it. It’s my job but I love getting out there and training every day. I’ll keep going until I don’t have that passion for going out training 40 hours a week. That’s when I’ll know that it’s time to hang up the shoes,” Brown said.
Millward will pose a serious threat after recovering from injury while racing in the US this year. He returned to win on the course at the Tinman triathlon and the Taupo Half.
Australian Tim Berkel enjoyed an outstanding 2011 season with ironman-distance and 70.3 victories around the globe, including eighth at the 70.3 World Championships.
The 2010 champion Michael Poole is back in outstanding shape after his first American campaign, with fellow Aucklanders James Bowstead and Brodie Madgwick hoping for a podium finish.
Meanwhile two-time winner Jo Lawn is favourite for the women’s title after claiming the title in 2011. The main competition is likely to come from former Mount Maunganui triathlete Michele Bremer, who won Ironman Western Australia recently on debut and super-talented Australian Christie Sym who has been on the podium around the world this year.
The elite race begins at 6.30am with the winner expected by 10.30am, with a sell-out field of 1200 taking part.