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

Duathlon: Ball gives her all in world title race

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Father and daughter Max and Morgan Ball at the finish of the World Duathlon Championships in Spain.
Father and daughter Max and Morgan Ball at the finish of the World Duathlon Championships in Spain.

As she closed in on the finish line of the World Duathlon Championship race, Tauranga's Morgan Ball was thinking, "fifth place sounds so much better than sixth".

She didn't quite pip the fifth-placed finisher, Britain's Francesca Hall, but came within two seconds and was pleased she gave it a crack.

Morgan and her father Max Ball both competed in their respective age groups at the world championships in Spain.

Morgan finished the bike leg in seventh place.

"I came off [the bike] and really didn't think I would catch anyone, but on the last lap of the run, I caught sixth place and I was in sixth and I could see [fifth place] in front of me and was thinking to myself 'fifth place sounds so much better than sixth place'. I went for it and I was so happy I went for it because normally I would quite happily sit in my placing and be happy with that."

There was just one problem.

"I must have just overestimated how much energy I had left and just hit this wall, but she only beat me by two seconds, so that was awesome."

The end of the race was better than the start for Morgan.

"I felt so good lining up. I was so confident in myself. But halfway through the first run, I just hit this wall. I was tired and couldn't wait to get on the bike and have my electrolytes and my gels. Instead of racing for a time, I just started just following my other competitors - a couple of others in my age group passed me and I sat on them."

When she finally made it to her bike she "was so knackered I almost fell off when I hopped on".

Friends tracking her at home said she was getting faster with each lap of the bike circuit.

"My biking has improved, but I was unrealistic thinking I was at a world level - I just didn't know what to expect, but now I know that I've really got to hit the bike."

Max was also surprised by the level of competition, but described representing his country on the international sporting stage as "probably one of the greatest experiences you could have as a sportsperson".

"Normally when I do races here I am in the top three, whereas there I was in the back three. Everybody's just so fast," he said.

"I started off like I normally do, but it was really hot and wasn't feeling that great, so I just thought' I'm going to enjoy the experience and make sure I finish'."

Despite finishing 42nd of 45 in his age group, he set what he considered to be a good time, 2h 44m 26s. Morgan's time was 10 minutes faster.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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