Triathlon: Oceania Triathlon Champs hugely important

By John Hill

Sam Ward competes in the Team Relay during the Australian Youth Olympic Festival. Photo / Getty Images
Sam Ward competes in the Team Relay during the Australian Youth Olympic Festival. Photo / Getty Images

New Zealand high-performance coach Tim Brazier says this weekend's Oceania Triathlon Championships are "hugely important for the country and individual triathletes".

"For the New Zealand men, it's a chance to book a third qualifying spot for the country for this year's Rio Olympics," said the 32-year-old who has been high-performance coach for the past three years.

"It's also important for the women, who have booked three spots at this stage based on points. As it stands, someone could overtake our third spot on points, but a win tomorrow would guarantee the women three spots.

"It is important to note that victory tomorrow does not earn the individual triathlete a spot on the start line at Rio, but the individual can book his or her country's third quota spot for Brazil.

"For individuals, tomorrow also offers the chance to get on the podium at a Continential (Oceania) championship.

"It's about establishing themselves as top triathletes.

"The first step forward is about making podiums at the Oceania events, then world cup events and World Triathlon Series events."

Brazier said that should New Zealand qualify for a third country spot, individual triathletes would then need to have two top-eight finishes in this year's world triathlon series events to push their claims for a trip to Rio.

"In the women's elite race tomorrow, the New Zealand females to keep an eye on are Simone Ackermann and Deb Lynch, our top-ranked women.

"In the men, you have Sam Ward (Auckland) and 2015 Oceania sprint triathlon champion Sam Osborne (Rotorua).

"Ward is still in the under-23 category but will be looking to mix it at the front of the field in a race that combines u23 and elites on the same start line.

"If you are looking for a wild card among the men, three-time Coast to Coast winner Braden Currie (Wanaka) would be the one to watch.

"Braden, who was second at the world Xterra triathlon champs, has come across to ITU champs to give it a nudge."

New Zealand have not had a man on the Olympic triathlon podium since 2008, when Bevan Docherty won bronze in Beijing.

"We definitely have the talented athletes who can do it," Brazier said.

"The sport has gone through the roof in terms of talent.

"If you think of what Hamish Carter ran in Athens when he won gold, his run time was about 31 minutes something.

"The overall time is always course-dependent so the run time is the interesting one.

"The world champs race was won in 28.59, that's two minutes faster.

"If you think about New Zealand's 10,000-metre champs this year, that race was won in just over 30 minutes, that's without the swim and run.

"The run is the key aspect."

"We don't have huge depth, let's be honest. There's not a huge number. Spain, for example, have five athletes in the top 16 but they don't have any females there.

"France have three or four men in the top 20 but no women.

"Probably only Great Britain and Australia have strong males and females.

"We've got males and females who can make top eight, so we've got both.

"In 2015, we had Andrea Hewitt and Nicky Samuels in the top five in the world.

"A lot of potentially good young triathletes are coming through, including Gisborne's Tayler Reid."

Reid, a member of the New Zealand high-performance squad, was to have made his debut in the u23 division, but was ruled out through injury.

"Tayler is a very talented athlete. With his swimming and cycling abilities, he can step up into high-level racing.

"He would have been to the fore swimming and cycling here this weekend and he's been developing his run well.

"That's the challenging step for him. It would have been interesting to see how he went against Ryan Fisher (Australia), who was 12th in a world series event two weeks ago, and Aaron Royle (Australia), who has a podium at World Tri Series and is consistently in the top five.

"Tayler would have swum and biked well with them but competing against them on the run would be a step beyond him. You have to remember Tayler's only 19.

"Barring injury and if he can improve his running, he could qualify for the 2018 Commonwealth Games. He's definitely tracking towards the 2020 Olympics.

"In mens' triathlons, athletes are coming into it and peaking a lot earlier.

"They're coming straight out of u23s and being at the top. So early to mid 20s is where we're seeing it. Tayler has three years at u23 to develop, so Commonwealth Games is a possibility

"One of the biggests changes is when you talk about Bevan (Docherty) and Hamish (Carter), they came out of other sports, whereas the current kids are true triathletes.

"We're bringing through a generation who have focused on triathlons from a young age.

"The thing that will set them apart is attitude. A lot of talented kids are out there but some don't have the right attitude."

- NZ Herald

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