Stuart Whitaker is a sports reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times and a general reporter for the Bay News.

Duathlon: Father-daughter duo take on world

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Father and daughter Max and Morgan Ball are heading to the World Duathlon Championship in Spain. Photo / John Borren
Father and daughter Max and Morgan Ball are heading to the World Duathlon Championship in Spain. Photo / John Borren

A father and daughter will be competing at the same world championship event early next month.

Former Bethlehem College student Morgan Ball and her father Max will both represent New Zealand at the World Duathlon Championships in Aviles, north-west Spain on June 5.

Morgan will compete in the 20-24 age group, and Max in the 55-59 age group over the standard distance of 10km run, 40km cycle and 5km run.

"I started running when I was about 35 I guess - so I've been a bit of a runner, but cycling's pretty new," said Max.

"It was Morgan's idea. About a year or so ago, she said, 'Let's buy some bikes and see if we can qualify for this thing in Spain.'"

Now 19, Morgan only began running in her final years at college.

"I've been a runner for probably the last three years and I've had a coach for the last year - man, I wish I'd done that sooner it's so helpful," she said.

Both are coached by Craig Kirkwood.

Morgan represented Waikato/Bay of Plenty last year at cross country events and also won the New Zealand under 20 half marathon championship.

The pair both qualified for the world championships with second place age group finishes at the national duathlon championships in Auckland.

Max said both athletes were confident the cycling they had done and their strong running would see them qualify. Since then, they have competed in several events.

"This year I've been doing a lot of podiuming in 10k running events," said Morgan.

She was third overall in the quarter marathon run alongside the Rotorua Marathon, was fourth overall in the Ohope 10km, winning the under 20 age group, and won the 15-19 age group in the Hawke's Bay 10km.

"We do most things together," says Max, "but I used to be the faster, until this year, now she runs away from me."

Competing together and training for a world title might seem like setting the bar high, but Max said it's a progression from being involved with their children's sport.

"We've always tried to do healthy things with the kids, a lot of sports, just to keep them fit and healthy," he said.

"(Morgan and I) do a lot of training together, a lot of biking together.

"I'm probably the fittest I've ever been and the biking's come right for both of us.

"We've been doing it for the past year and we've been doing some pretty hard training.

Morgan surprised herself at the way she has taken to cycling.

"I did the REV60, a 60km ride in Hamilton and I think I was 11th in my age group. I recently did 100k Flyer, from Rotorua to Taupo, and I did it in three hours which blew me away - I couldn't believe it and my coach was amazed."

And she doesn't suffer from what some multisport athletes fear when transitioning from the bike to the run.

"I don't get jelly legs - I love running off the bike. For the last month I've been doing hard bike then run sessions and I've done two personal bests in the 3k and 4k times off the bike and it's just awesome."

The world champ s will be the first time either has represented New Zealand overseas .

- Bay of Plenty Times

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