Daniel Whitburn joined a list of sporting greats at the Kinloch Triathlon yesterday. The 17-year old student from Auckland finished first in the prestigious Erin Baker race well ahead of his competitors.
He now sits alongside NZ Olympians Bevan Docherty, Sam Warriner and 12 time NZ Ironman Champion, Cameron Brown.
He looked relaxed and composed throughout the race but said, "looks can be deceiving".
"The Wanaka Triathlon last month was my first big race of the year and I didn't have great fitness back then. I swam a lot better today, left everything out on the course and it worked out for me in the end," he said.
Daniel finished almost three and half minutes ahead of second place getter, Cameron Paul. A massive achievement for the youngster who said a lot of the credit goes to his parents and Coach, Bruce Hunter for it.
"I'm hugely grateful for my parents support. I have them to thank for helping me get to a competitive fitness level as well as Bruce who was a big part of my success today," he said.
"I guess it also helps that I'm pretty skinny, so, getting up those hills was a little easier than some of the other guys," he said.
It's a special feeling to be named alongside some of New Zealand's sporting greats.
"If you'd have told me this one or two years ago, I never would've thought that. I'm really thankful for the opportunity to race and the successes that will come along the way," he said.
In the womens race, Sam Bradley (Warriner) returned to defend not just one, two or three titles but four championships.
The 45 year-old, mother of two, wife, coach and Olympian is a powerhouse. Sam opens a world of possibilities for anyone thinking of or returning to competitive racing.
"I'm going to aim towards World Masters, this puts me on track for it. But I'm just looking forward to all the local and the great races on offer here. It doesn't matter whether you're an elite, age grouper or first timer there's so many triathlons around," she said.
Sam is fully devoted to seeing others succeed in their athletic goals. Her coaching group, sweat7 is widely popular amongst local youth and all ages in Taupo.
"I enjoy racing and being out there with my team. When they're out there on the course, just cheering them on and giving them advice is more important to me than anything else," she said.
Sam represented NZ at the Bejing Olympic Games in 2008 and says that today's race gave her moments of deja vu.
"I knew there were strong runners out there today, Annika Pfitzinger for one" she said.
"Annika's dad, Pete, use to coach NZ Olympian Debbie Tanner. So, I was just reminded of how I use to get chased down on the ITU circuit by this top elite athlete and how I can't get away from Pete," she laughed.
In the end, experience had the final say as Sam claimed her fifth title in 2h 20s 03ms. The Erin Baker race is also part of the Erin Baker Award which is awarded to anyone who completes four of Taupo's iconic events in the same season.
1 - Samantha Bradley
2 - Rebecca Elliott
3 - Anikka Pfitzinger
4 - Alison Wilson
5 - Ashleigh Williams
1 - Daniel Whitburn
2 - Cameron Paul
3 - Peter Campbell
4 - Steve Borkin
5 - Alex Roberts