Triathlon: Hewitt the soul of the sport

Andrea Hewitt may have missed out on winning in front of her home fans, but she again showed triathlon in this country is safe in her hands.

With Bevan Docherty set to join Kris Gemmell in leaving the sport and 24-year-old Ryan Sissons not quite in contention, New Zealand triathlon fans are short on potential world-beaters.

But they can at least still rely on Hewitt. Her seventh place at yesterday's Barfoot & Thompson world series grand final in Auckland ensured the 30-year-old finished on the overall podium for the second straight year.

After coming second last year Hewitt slipped back a place in 2012, but her consistency is a clear indicator she will get more chances to go one better in the years to come.

"It was a good way to top off another consistent year," Hewitt said. "I couldn't believe it at the end. I came into this race fourth-ranked and Erin (Densham) was leading the series, but with her DNF today I moved in front."

If Densham, who was suffering from the flu, had finished near Hewitt, the Australian would have pushed the Kiwi off the podium. But Hewitt's place on the dais could have already been secured had she not skipped three races in the eight-event season.

In the five races in which she did compete Hewitt's worst result was 11th, showing she hold the ability to race with the world's best on any given day.

That was true at the London Olympics, where Hewitt backed up her prospects as New Zealand's best medal hope before fading on the run to finish a disappointing sixth.

With the sport on these shores long being well-represented on the global stage by the likes of Docherty and Hamish Carter, Hewitt is now the main carrier of Kiwi hopes and she should continue in that role until the 2014 Olympics in Rio.

She would have won some new fans with her strong showing yesterday, as well as her victory in last year's World Cup race around the same course.

On Saturday, Hewitt was in the front group for virtually the whole race, until the pace kicked up on the last lap of the 10km run. She credited the crowd for helping her through to the finish, and said she tried to reward them with another victory.

"That was a tough last race for the season," she said. "That last lap was the toughest, and I put everything into it, but I didn't get the result I'd hoped for. "I felt good on the run and I tried to push at the start of the last lap, but I couldn't get there. I didn't have the legs today."

Her legs may have been hampered by a mishap at the final transition, where she ran by her bay and ended up losing about 10 seconds. But, regardless of the final result, Hewitt illustrated triathlon in New Zealand can still count on her after the departure of its two leading men.

- APNZ

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