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With Andrea Hewitt already qualified for the London Olympics, racing will be intense to find up to two others to join her on the start line, with Sydney this weekend the final chance to impress.
The task to earn an automatic qualification alongside Hewitt is to be first Kiwi home inside the top 8 overall (or second Kiwi in the top 8 if Hewitt finishes as first Kiwi). Regardless with the New Zealanders odds on to earn three spots in London (subject to finishing as one of the top 8 nations on the ITU Olympic points list on June 8th) all the Kiwis racing on Saturday will be looking to impress the selectors, who will make their nominations to the NZOC next week.
Kate McIlroy goes into the race as the second ranked Kiwi following her strong finish to 2011, placing 6th in Beijing and then 3rd at the delayed Yokohama World Champs Series race. The 2011 world number 17 is confident of a strong showing on Saturday.
“I have spent the last four months training for this race and I’m finally looking forward to lining up on the start line and trying to emulate my last two world champs races. If I can achieve a similar result on Saturday then I know I will be guaranteed a place in the NZ Olympic team which will be without doubt the highlight of my triathlon career.
“I have had a great block of training since January basing myself primarily in Wellington with a few stints in Taupo and Wanaka. The hardest part as an athlete is getting the training base right and peaking at the right time, without getting injured along the way. I feel that I have got this right, but all will be answered by lunchtime on Saturday.”
Also chasing her spot at an Olympics for the first time is Wanaka’s Nicky Samuels who has overcome well publicised heart problems just to be on the start line, it is that famous determination that makes her a danger.
“I’m looking forward to starting the racing season here in Sydney. I normally race a lot over NZ summer. But this summer I have done a couple of sprint races as training and one standard distance race (Oceania Champs in Devonport). This race was almost five weeks ago and was a great hit out pre-Sydney. I went away from it knowing my swim bike was strong and my run needed fine tuning, it was a tough day for me but now I feel I have got all 3 disciplines nailed. It has been a long time since I have had that feeling so I look forward to Sydney with anticipation and excitement.
“My build up has been good with most sessions going as planned. My goal is to get that Olympic Selection spot up for grabs this weekend so I am aiming for top 8 placing the first Kiwi home. As long as I go out there and enjoy myself the rest should come.”
Debbie Tanner was there in Beijing, finishing 10th overall and is focused on a return to London in August.
“This is the best summer of preparation I have had since 2008. My coach and I sat down at the end of last season and analyzed the year. I had a lot of frustrations and we knew we had to change some things if I was going to improve on my 10th placing in the Beijing Olympics.
“A key step was meeting with Triathlon NZ Medical Director Dr Judith May to figure out why my recovery from training was not as good as it used to be. After years of being on the Pill she suggested I come off it and this has enabled me to train harder and recover better over the past 5 months, and I feel like my old self. We are leaving no stone unturned in training so when I get on the start line know I have done everything right.
“I got back into racing our NZ summer series which was amazing. I used these races as speed sessions throughout my hard training blocks. We have such good competition at these races they provide a real stimulus.
“With every race I have been gaining more confidence and positive momentum. I expect a lot from myself and will be leaving everything on the race course on Saturday morning.”
Like Tanner, 22 year old Teresa Adam has left no stone unturned in her quest to be fit and fast in Sydney as she has overcome lower leg injuries that have so far plagued her promising career.
"I am really looking forward to racing in Sydney this weekend. It is going to be very fast and exciting - if I wasn't racing I can imagine I would be glued to the TV watching!
“I will be honest and say that making the Olympic team is a pretty long shot for me, but there is a chance and I will do everything in my power to show that I have what it takes to be an Olympian.
“Putting all that aside though, this race is just another stepping stone for me on my journey. I have had a rough time with injuries over the past year, so I am just super happy to have made it to the start line and I am looking to race aggressively and see where I am at against the best in the world. I am just excited to get out there and show what I can do."
Someone to impress greatly in recent weeks has been Whangarei’s Simone Ackermann, the 22 year old has put together a great string of performances and despite debuting at this level on Saturday, might yet be a dark horse for a strong result.
“Sydney will be my first World Champs Series race, so it will be a big learning experience for me. But my racing has been going well so far this season, so I am looking forward to racing at this level and testing myself against the top girls. The last few weeks my training has been going pretty well. I am feeling good about this weekend and hopefully having a good race.”
World number two Andrea Hewitt will enjoy a lower profile having already qualified for London but is looking forward to a strong performance nonetheless.
“I will be wearing the number one in Sydney but for once there is less pressure around me. The focus is all on the other New Zealand athletes and they have only each other to worry about. I can focus on my own race and getting on the top of the podium. I have had a NZ summer of really good preparation. 3 weeks ago, I started the season with a third placing in Mooloolaba. This weekend I am ready for a faster run.”
The women’s race will begin at 9.36am on Saturday morning New Zealand time, with live coverage on SKY Sport 2.
For updates during the race from the venue, please try either one of:
· Stephen Sheldrake 021 504 888
· Craig Waugh 0274 733 599
(Please note Andrew Dewhurst is not in Sydney for this event)
For all other information relating to the event from the ITU and LOC media crew, contact:
· Lisa Pringle - Media Manager - 0417 005 743
· Adele Ormando – Media Communications – 0402 064 078
· Courtney Akrigg – Media Communications 0411 167 975
· Dawn Justice – Media Centre Supervisor – 0414 397 969
Please note a teleconference will be held post event at 5pm, with Tri NZ National Coach Greg Fraine and selected athletes available; please follow the prompts below:
· For media in New Zealand, please dial 083033 and use the pin: 756345
For all other event information, including schedule of events, start lists and race previews, click here