Sam Ward got his first ITU World Cup podium at Mooloolaba on Saturday - an incredible achievement and long awaited one for the Cambridge based athlete who picked up the bronze medal.
Coach, Tim Brazier says, "it's important to recognise that this hasn't happened overnight. It's been years of development and is a reflection of a good training group operating well together."
Ward was amongst the lead group on the run which included a strong Aussie contingent.
Drew Box (AUS) and Luke Willian (AUS) who would eventually take the gold and silver were shoulder to shoulder as they kept Ward, Kevin McDowell (USA) and Michael Lori (CAN) fighting for a position.
The group of five remained the same until the final lap when the Aussies started to wedge the group apart. Mexican athlete, Crisanto Grajales who was 30 seconds off the lead group was playing catchup on the run and did well to overtake Lori on the final lap.
The wait is now over for the Kiwis who haven't tasted a World Cup podium since Ryan Sissons second at Huatulco in 2012.
Another impressive performance was made by Taupo resident, Nicole van der Kaay. The 21 year old raced strongly coming off the back of her bronze medal at the OTU Sprint Triathlon in Kinloch. She formed the lead pack into the run with favourites, Emma Jackson and Emma Jeffcoat. A sight all too familiar to van der Kaay, who recently battled with the Aussie pair in February at Kinloch.
The lead pack also included Claudia Rivas (MEX) and Carolina Routier (ESP) who were all being chased down by another favourite, Ashleigh Gentle of Australia. In the final two kilometres, Gentle nudged her way to the front which meant van der Kaay had to press deep for a podium. Unfortunately, it was Rivas of Mexico who managed to hold her spot in third, Gentle second and Jackson first.
There were some more resilient performances by the rest of the New Zealand athletes today too.
Coach Tim Brazier said, "It was a tough race but Deborah Lynch, Elise Salt and Fynn Thompson showed character and fight."
Liam Ward and Trent Thorpe worked really hard with Thorpe placing just outside of the Top 10 in 11th and Ward in 14th.