Triathlon: Currie, Watkinson defend national titles

Braden Currie enjoying the victory at the Port Tauranga 1/2 Ironman Triathlon. Photo / Getty Images
Braden Currie enjoying the victory at the Port Tauranga 1/2 Ironman Triathlon. Photo / Getty Images

Defending champion, Braden Currie turned out an incredible performance to win the Port of Tauranga Half this morning in race record time. In the women's field, Amelia Rose Watkinson again showed that she is the country's premier women's long distance triathlete defending her title at Mount Maunganui.

Braden Currie recorded a winning time of 3:45:38, smashing the previous race record, which was jointly held by Nathan Richmond and Graham O'Grady, by two minutes.

Currie was second out of the water in the 2k swim, 29 seconds adrift of Eddie Rawles.

Rawles headed out strongly on the bike, before being picked by Currie on the second leg of the 90k bike. From there, Currie showed his speed on the 21k run leg to record a 2 minute 17 second victory over long-distance legend Cameron Brown.

Currie was delighted with his race record performance saying - "it was a rough swim (in choppy conditions on Pilot Bay) so I was just trying to hang in there. I got into a good rhythm on the bike, initially focusing on catching Eddie Rawles before maintaining the gap on the remainder of the bike and run leg."

In reflecting on his Port of Tauranga Half experience, Currie said - "I always enjoy this event. It is at a great time of the year, with good crowd support throughout the course. You are also on your own round the back of the mountain, which gives you a chance to reflect and take in the scenery."

Cameron Brown defied his 44 years of age with an outstanding performance to finish second. He was 13th out of the water, with a 1 minute 51 second deficit to Currie at that point of the race. Brown used his incredible strength on the bike and run legs to come up through the field into the runner-up position.

The Port of Tauranga Half is key preparation for Cameron Brown's defence of the NZ Ironman Title in March, and he showed today that he is in outstanding form eight weeks out from that event.

The surprise packet in today's event was 19 year old - Hayden Wilde from Whakatane in his first long distance event. He announced himself onto the multi-sport world last year in winning the two day event at the Coast to Coast, and his performance in the Port of Tauranga Half today shows that he has a massive future in the sport, leading Cameron Brown until the final 5kms of the event.

In the women's race, Amelia Rose Watkinson trailed by 2 minutes 40 seconds out of the water but stormed through the field on the bike leg to eventually win by a 2 minutes 34 second margin.

For Watkinson, the Port of Tauranga Half has come at the end of the long season of racing in Asian, where she recorded 10 triathlon wins in a break-through year for the 25 year old triathlete.

She showed her class on the bike and run legs at Mount Maunganui this morning. In describing the race, Watkinson said - "it was a fast swim leg with plenty of short course triathlon specialists in the field. I had to be patient on the bike leg to catch the group in front of me."

Watkinson went on to say - this event completes a very long season for me and was a cool way to finish. After so many events in Asian it was great to race at home in front of friends and family, and the amazing public support here."

Second place getter in the women's field, Julia Grant from Canterbury will be delighted with her performance, finishing two places better and over fifteen minutes faster than last year. Grant had a great battle through the run leg with Aucklander Teresa Adam who finished third in only her second attempt at the long distance format.

The Port of Tauranga Half doubles as the 2017 National Long Distance Triathlon Championships so Braden Currie and Amelia Rose Watkinson have defended their national titles, while the national champ in various age groups was found.

The Port of Tauranga Half is part the Mount Festival of Multisport programme, which also featured the Under Armour Mount Run and Jetts Dash for Cash in Pilot Bay today, and the NZ Beach Volleyball Champs on Mount Maunganui's Main Beach over the weekend.

- NZ Herald

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