Cameron Brown targets number nine

Triathlon phenomenon Cameron Brown will chase a remarkable ninth victory in Saturday's 23rd Port of Tauranga Half at Mt 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 Tauranga event, which doubles as Triathlon New Zealand's national championships.

He used to take up to six weeks off after competing at the world championships in Hawaii and Ironman New Zealand but found he was more susceptible to injury when he returned to training.

"Now I 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 ... it has been a push to be in shape for Mt 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 going 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."

The largely flat course at Mt Maunganui has some significant hurdles.

"Because it's flat on the bike, the speeds are really high so if you don't get a good swim, it can be really hard to get back into the race.

"And the run around the Mount base track is tough. It's undulating and you do it twice. We strike it the final time at about the 17km mark and ... by that stage those undulations seem like pretty big hills."

Brown had his maiden victory at the Port of Tauranga Half in 1998, the first of seven straight wins.

His streak was ended by Australian Craig Alexander, who went on to win the ironman world title three times, but he came back to win in 2007.

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?

Millward will pose a serious threat after recovering from an injury suffered while racing in the United States this year. He returned to win at the Tinman triathlon and the Taupo half.

Other contenders include Australian Tim Berkel and 2010 champion Michael Poole, who is back in outstanding shape after his first American campaign.

Fellow Aucklanders James Bowstead and Brodie Madgwick will also be hoping for a podium finish.

"Callum is one of the younger guys who is doing really well. He has the speed and is looking to push through into the international scene.

"Tim had a great year with wins all around the world ... so he isn't coming over just to make up the numbers.

"Michael is another good young prospect and then there's Brodie and James among those other good younger guys on the scene."

Meanwhile, two-time winner Jo Lawn is favourite for the women's title she won last year.

The main competition is likely to come from former Mt Maunganui triathlete Michele Bremer, who won Ironman Western Australia 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 a sell-out field of 1200 taking part.

Cameron Brown

  • Born: June 20, 1972

  • Lives: Auckland

  • Status: Married to Jenny, Two boys: Braeden, Josh

  • Ironman wins: Ironman NZ (10 times, race record), Ironman Europe (2006)

  • World championships (Hawaii): 2nd 2001, 3rd in 2002, 3rd in 2003, 2nd 2005

  • Half wins in Tauranga: 1998, 99, 2000, 01, 02, 03, 04, 07STILL GOING: Cameron Brown is chasing a remarkable ninth win in Tauranga on Saturday.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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