New Zealand's Ryan Sissons began the 2016 ITU World Triathlon Series season in strong fashion, posting a sseventh place finish at the Abu Dhabi rave overnight on Saturday night (NZT), in a consistent display of racing that saw the Aucklander punch the air and look skywards upon crossing the line in typically hot conditions.
The race was won by Mario Mola (ESP) from Richard Murray (SAF) and Joao Silva (POR), but for the Kiwi it was always a numbers game as he ran strongly in the chase pack, always inside the top eight number that holds significance for him if he is to earn a nomination for Rio.
"I needed two top eights (to meet selection criteria) and this is my second, obviously I am really happy. Now it comes down to the selectors nominating me for the team. I think I am only going to get better from here, especially given the changes I have undergone in the past six months or so, I would like to think more time means better results for me.
"I knew I wanted to get that top eight at the start of the season, hopefully now I can prepare as best I can for Rio rather than try and race every other race to get that qualification. For me that was the biggest goal, that was one thing the coach and my support team decided to do, try and get it done straight away so I can focus on Rio."
Sissons is not sure what this result means for his upcoming schedule, but the ITU New Plymouth World Cup race might be the winner from it all.
"I don't know now, I was planning on doing Gold Coast and Yokohama, but if I know I am on the team those things might change, but I still want to race those events I enjoy racing, it is always fun when you can race well so I am still looking at Gold Coast and maybe New Plymouth at home, but we will wait and see."
Sissons spoke about recent months and the changes he has gone through and what impact it has had on his performance today.
"Six months ago I changed coaches to Laurent Vidal and that was an awesome change and I was extremely happy with how that was going until he tragically passed away. That really shook me up for a while, I wasn't sure if I wanted to keep doing triathlon, he inspired me and believed in me so much but it took a bit of motivation and knowing that Andrea was 100% committed to going, I felt I needed to be 100% committed to helping her as well as trying to get on the team myself.
"I teamed up with Chris Pilone who coached me before London and I supposed it is working amazingly, I know Andrea is going well at the moment and he has got me in this shape that I knew I could race in, I guess I am really happy that I have pulled this off in such a short space of time, working with someone new and with that motivation knowing that Laurent was a huge impact on my life in the past six months and that he is looking down on me pretty happy.
"I have a few little things on my bike, it has LV (Laurent Vidal) and if I am hurting a little I look down at that knowing that he is a guy who would always keep pushing, keep pushing so yeah, a little bit extra motivation and it is great to see so much respect paid to him here at this event, he was a huge part of the sport not only as an athlete but as a person. That was motivation to do well, our plan was to do this, Laurent had planned for me to come here and do what I needed to do, I am really happy I could do it."
In other New Zealand results, Sam Ward finished 38th in just his first WTS race over the standard distance as the young Auckland athlete continues to make his way in the sport at the top level.
In the women's race won by Jodie Stimpson (GBR), Wanaka athlete Nicky Samuels marked her return to the sport after an 18 month absence with a steady performance, swimming at the front of the field and then cycling strongly before not surprisingly fading on the run to come home in 20th place. Samuels has only been back in full training for a matter of weeks and knows there are better days ahead of her this season as she too looks to earn a nomination for Rio.
Simone Ackermann finished in 24th place while Rebecca Spence did not finish the race.