Triathlon action has city buzzing

By Vaimoana Tapaleao, Tony Ng

Auckland's waterfront will teem with more than 7000 competitors, bringing a welcome economic boost.

Michael Milton holds the Australian record as the fastest skier with or without a disability.  Photo / Dean Purcell
Michael Milton holds the Australian record as the fastest skier with or without a disability. Photo / Dean Purcell

It has been almost a year since the euphoria of the Rugby World Cup final and now another international sporting event will enliven Auckland's waterfront.

This time last year, the Cloud was filled with thousands of rugby fans in its role as a World Cup fan zone.

Now it has been transformed into an athletes' village for competitors of the Barfoot & Thompson World Triathlon Grand Final.

And they are making their presence felt - the central city has been flooded with more bikers and runners than usual, dressed in their team colours. Adding to the atmosphere, temporary food stalls and cafes serving healthy food and drinks have popped up on the waterfront to cater for hard-training triathletes.

More than 7000 competitors from more than 60 countries will take part in the biggest triathlon event New Zealand has seen.

The sheds around the Cloud house a sports and lifestyle expo where athletes can have their bikes fixed or buy equipment.

The women's elite triathlon is tomorrow and the men's on Sunday.

Hotels near the waterfront are fully booked or close to full.

The city is expected to gain a $7 million Labour Weekend windfall.

Auckland business association Heart of Auckland City spokeswoman Tania Loveridge is excited about the economic benefits the event is bringing.

"Come Monday we can see how many people walked the streets using technology from retail outlets ... We're optimistic [the triathlon] will bring some benefits," Ms Loveridge said.

Speaking from his trade mission trip in Asia, Auckland Mayor Len Brown said the event proved that Auckland was not just a doorway for foreign tourists but a place they could spend time in and enjoy.

"The intention is to boost our visitor economy through making Auckland an events capital and a destination rather than just a gateway to the rest of New Zealand ... It increases Auckland's international profile through coverage of the event and it adds to Auckland's reputation as one of the world's most liveable cities."

- Tony Ng

Plenty of good spots to see world's best

Some of the world's top triathletes will be in town this weekend and there's a variety of good spots to get a close look at the stars.

Kiwis Bevan Docherty, Kris Gemmell and Andrea Hewitt - who finished second in the overall World Championship race last season - are among those to keep an eye on.

Organisers of the Barfoot & Thompson World Triathlon have set out "high-action viewing spots" for spectators hoping to see some of their favourites in action.

Queens Wharf and Cooks Wharf will provide prime spots for watching the swimming legs of all races, including the elite men's and women's.

But to enter the Queens Wharf grandstand fans must buy tickets - $10 for young people (18 years and under) and $20 for adults.

The bottom of Queen St, along Shortland St, and the intersection of Queen St, Victoria St East and Victoria St West, provide the best places to see elite runners in action.

Quay St - near the Jucy Corner grandstand - is another good spot to cheer on the favourites.

Several big screens at Queens Wharf will show the race with commentary.

Top triathletes from around the world competing this weekend include Sweden's Lisa Norden, Germany's Anne Haug, Britain's Jonathan Brownlee, South Africa's Richard Murray and Australia's Erin Densham, who placed third at the London Olympics.

Triathlon NZ head Craig Waugh expects thousands of people to turn out to cheer the athletes on.

- Vaimoana Tapaleao

The competitors

Michael Milton, Australia

He had his left leg amputated below the knee after suffering a form of bone cancer as a 9-year-old. But Milton has never let his disability deter him from pursuing the sport he loves - skiing.

He is one of Australia's most accomplished athletes, and the man from Canberra has a very impressive sporting CV. Milton has been to six Paralympic Games and went on to become an eleven-time winter Paralympic medallist (six gold medals).

His four-gold-medal haul at the 2002 Salt Lake City Paralympic Games earned him the Laureus World Sportsperson of the year with a Disability award.

He is also the record holder for Australia's fastest skier for both disabled and able bodied persons after travelling downhill in Les Arcs, France at a top speed of 213.65km/h in 2006.

He is now adding triathlete to his list of accomplishments in sports. He took the sport up two years ago and has competed in various races in Australia. Monday's paratriathlon will be his second world championship event. Because of his competitive nature, he would love to come first but concedes that he would be happy with a top five placing.

He is considering competing in triathlon's first Paralympic event, in Rio 2016, but that depends on other priorities. "The triathlon debut would be nice, I wouldn't rule it out but I've got kids and a business to do."

Sam Tebeck and Ben Tripodi, Aust

Two university students from Adelaide will be competing in the junior men [under 19] category on Sunday afternoon.

They are still new to the sport - Tripodi started "taking it seriously" only in the past 18 months, and Tebeck started two years ago.

Before then he was a motocross rider but had to give it up after he was involved in too many accidents.

The financial cost of it forced him to choose between one sport or the other.

"I quit that [motocross], it's too expensive to do both," he says.

The two men are good mates, are evenly matched and have the same aspirations.

"I would like to be in the top five, maybe top three," says Tripodi.

For Tebeck it was the "top three" that he wanted.

Their coach Stephen O'Brien has joined the pair in Auckland and he sees a lot of potential in their future in triathlon.

"They both want and can be at the Commonwealth Games, they could be in the pro circuit one day," he says.

Ana Laura Escamilla, Mexico

Ana Laura Escamilla is competing at her first world championship event.

Ana Laura Escamilla, from the city of Monterrey, is competing in the 35-39 age group sprint event on Monday, and is competing at her first world championship event.

Escamilla was a keen track and field competitor and mountainbiker when she was younger, and started competing in triathlons only 18 months ago.

She had to have knee surgery nearly two years ago because of wear and tear, and when she was recovering from the operation she did swimming exercises to build up strength in the knee. It was then she explored doing triathlon.

" I did running and biking before, the only thing left to do was swimming," she said.

Escamilla says cycling is her strength and she doesn't have any specific placing goal in the race.

She feels right at home in Auckland as a large number of Team Mexico members are from her hometown, and she is is loving the Queens Wharf area because of the opportunities to make new friends among people from around the world.

- NZ Herald

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