Comm Games: Error dooms triathletes

By Kris Shannon in Glasgow

Nicky Samuels' strong efforts on the bike were not enough to prevent disappointment in the team triathlon. Photo / Greg Bowker
Nicky Samuels' strong efforts on the bike were not enough to prevent disappointment in the team triathlon. Photo / Greg Bowker

A disconsolate Ryan Sissons was left ruing the mistake that cost his country a chance for a triathlon medal.

New Zealand's triathletes will head home from Glasgow without a single success in the sport for the first time at a Commonwealth Games, missing out in the individual races and squandering a golden opportunity in the team relay overnight (NZT).

Or should that be a silver opportunity. Gold was never on the table - an English team boasting both Brownlee brothers and women's champion Jodie Stimpson guaranteed that - but the Kiwis could have crossed second in Motherwell.

That prospect loomed likely as Sissons began the anchor leg, having been put in a strong position by Andrea Hewitt, Tony Dodds and, especially, Nicky Samuels. He held a 13-second advantage over the field when he dived from the pontoon and into Strathclyde Loch, but a tactical decision and an elementary error saw that buffer disappear.

The Kiwis were left to settle for fifth and Sissons was left with one of the biggest disappointments of his young career.

"It's pretty average, really," he said. "We really wanted to be on the podium today and it didn't happen.

"I'm pretty disappointed and I sort of feel like I let the team down on that last leg."

Hewitt's strong start saw the team in the front pack before Dodds took over in a format that sees all four athletes complete mini-triathlons before tagging off to a teammate.

After Jonny Brownlee opened a bit of breathing room at the front of the field, Samuels made gains on the bike to catch women's champion Jodie Stimpson and establish a gap over the chasing pack.

Samuels made the Games only after appealing against her initial non-selection, and playing a significant part in winning a medal would have provided real vindication. But Sissons, facing the unenviable ask of reeling in men's race winner Alistair Brownlee, decided to pull up and work with a group of four behind him.

The 26-year-old backed his abilities on the run and intended to race his way onto the podium, but a mistake in transition saw the New Zealand team emerge from Glasgow with only frustration.

"I was in no-man's land and it was either myself trying to catch Brownlee on a one-on-one, which is not really going to happen, or save as much energy as possible for the run," Sissons said.

"I backed myself to try and run better but I made a silly mistake coming into transition, trying to get my shoes, and that cost us a few seconds on that group of guys who were running ahead of me.

"I just didn't have the legs to keep up, to be honest, and in this sort of racing five or 10 seconds is all it needs."

Samuels, for her part, was probably the only Kiwi to take anything out of these Games. While she obviously shared her teammates' disappointment, she would be forgiven for feeling quietly content in her own performance.

First the 31-year-old impressed in the individual race, fading to finish 10th but giving a good account of herself and easily out-performing fellow Kiwi Kate McIlroy. That effort then saw her replace McIlroy in the relay team, where she again showed enough to justify her eventual selection.

"I'm just happy to be a part of this team," she said. "We did all we could and I played my part just as much as everyone else did.

"I think, generally, we're a little bit gutted. We really wanted to get on that podium and this was our race to do it."

- NZ Herald

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