Sport, best of the year: 8 Kate McIlroy and Jonathan Wyatt

By David Leggat

Wellington athletes achieved a memorable double on home soil at the world mountain running championships in September.

Mountain running is an offshoot of the more established running events and is particularly popular in Europe. But it has been a source of fitness work for generations of sportsmen and women and is gaining acceptance by traditionalists.

Athens Olympic marathoner Wyatt is an old hand at this lark but doing it on the Mt Victoria circuit he knows like the bottom of his feet made it special.

This was his fifth world title - just a thought: how many other New Zealanders can claim to be a five-time world champion? - and the 32-year-old made history by becoming the first man to win titles in both the uphill and up-and-down format.

He pounded out the 13.5km run in 53m 23s, heading off a field of 110 athletes by more than two minutes.

"I was so focused, stuck to my plan and with the crowd four deep on the mountain and 10 deep in the finishing straight I knew it was time to do my job," Wyatt said.

McIlroy took the baton from two-time former world champion Melissa Moon in only her second mountain running race.

She got clear on the first lap and cut out the 9.1km course in 39m 40s, also winning by over two minutes.

On each lap runners had a 310m climb - that's 114m higher than Mt Eden in Auckland. Not exactly a stroll in the park, then.

The 24-year-old McIlroy, who is also national short and longcourse cross-country champion, then had a crack at qualifying for the March Commonwealth Games in Melbourne over 10,000m. She won the Zatopek Classic this month, but was 47s outside the required time.

New Zealand sport doesn't often get to celebrate two world champions in one sport in such quick order. The rowers at Gifu are the obvious exception.

Wellingtonians got out to make sure this was an occasion to savour. Local talent made very good.

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