New Port of Tauranga Half champions crowned

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WINNING SMILE: Braden Currie wins his first Port of Tauranga Half at Mount Maunganui on Saturday. Photo: ANDREW WARNER
WINNING SMILE: Braden Currie wins his first Port of Tauranga Half at Mount Maunganui on Saturday. Photo: ANDREW WARNER

The 27th running of the iconic Port of Tauranga Half saw two new champions crowned in blustery conditions at Pilot Bay on Saturday.

Braden Currie and Amelia Rose Watkinson notched their maiden victories in the 27th running of the event that also doubles as New Zealand's long-distance championships.

Currie, the 29-year-old from small-town Methven, won at his third attempt in 3hr 52 min 26 sec after a second and third placing. He is a powerful athlete with a killer-kick on the run leg similar to Cameron Brown, 43, the 10-time Port of Tauranga Half winner who finished third in (3:55.06) behind second-placed Mark Bowstead (3:54.00).

But Currie looked anything like winning with a deficit of 2:32 leading into the final 21.1km run home after a disastrous bike leg.

"It was a hard day at the office to tell you the truth. I sort of felt like pulling out half way through.

The bike ride wasn't happening for me and I was just really struggling," Currie said.

"I definitely didn't expect Mark (Bowditch) to swim as well as he did so that made it a really hard race. I spent a lot of time chasing and a lot of time battling to catch him up. The course is always tough. It is super flat so you are out there by yourself. It is just a grovel the whole way really.

Watkinson, 24, from Hawke's Bay, led out of the water and never looked back to win in 4:16.26 with Candice Hammond second (4:29.17) and Rebecca Fogarty third (4:30.46).

"It is nice to be leading the race as it gives you confidence but you never know who's coming from behind so you've got to stay strong. It is also nice to be crowned national champ and I am hoping to go onwards and upwards from here."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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