New Zealand is widely known for ingenuity, for thinking outside the box. The mixed team relay lived up to that reputation at the Commonwealth Games with a shoe swifty proving pivotal in securing bronze, and breaking triathlon's 12-year medal drought.

Seven seconds separated the fourth-placed Canadians and New Zealand team comprising two veterans, Ryan Sissons and Andrea Hewitt, and two youngsters, Tayler Reid and Nicole van der Kaay.

Had Sissons and Reid not worn running shoes instead of clip-ins on their bike legs to save precious time during transitions, that margin would have been much closer to the point they may have missed a medal.

"We're not the first to do it – I know Hamish Carter has done before," Sissons said after securing his first Games medal in his fourth attempt. "It's something we've been working on for the past three or four months and it certainly paid dividends. The secret is out now so no doubt every other team is going to have them so the advantage will come back, but today that made a huge difference."

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Running shoes alone are favoured more in duathlon than triathlon racing. But slipping on the runners after the 250m swim for the 7km bike and 1.5km run, the Kiwis felt the tactic played a major role.

"We got onto the run super quick. I am surprised no-one was using them here. It's not a new thing but it hasn't been used recently. For the short sharp distance stuff on a flat course it was a no-brainer."

Sissons, the best-placed Kiwi in fifth from the men's individual race on Thursday, also revealed he only made the relay start line after Tony Dodds was cut from the team at the 11th hour.

"I guess they changed some selections around post the individual race so I got the call-up that evening. I'm never going to say no to an event like this so I was super happy to be selected."

Ryan Sissons of New Zealand competes in the Triathlon Mixed Team Relay Final. Photo / Getty Images
Ryan Sissons of New Zealand competes in the Triathlon Mixed Team Relay Final. Photo / Getty Images

Melbourne, 2006, was the last time New Zealand claimed a triathlon medal. That day Bevan Docherty and Samantha Warriner collected silver, while a young Andrea Hewitt grabbed bronze.

Twelve years on, Hewitt was back at it, completing the third leg and tagging Reid into third. The Gisborne 21-year-old, who faded from second to 11th in the individual race, brushed off the pressure to charge home for bronze in-front a huge contingent of family and friends, all of whom donned blonde wigs and specially made t-shirts.

"There's more than 20 but they sounded like 2000 people," Reid said. "They're foghorns but I love them all. Seeing my family light up and these guys down the home stretch as I came down the finishing shoot… I looked back and I had a gap it was amazing. I will never forget this."

For Hewitt, who lost long-term partner and coach, Laurent Vidal, to a cardiac arrest in November 2015, bronze capped a heart-breaking journey, especially after disappointing with 13th in the individual race.

"It gets emotional at times like these," she said, bursting into tears. "I was third back in Melbourne and fourth in Glasgow so it's great to be back on the podium."

Van der Kaay, seventh in her individual race, put New Zealand in contention for bronze from the outset. The 22-year-old, like Reid attending her first Games, waited at the finish alongside Hewitt and Sissons. The trio willed Reid on; embracing as he crossed the finish.

"We were losing it," van der Kaay said.

One minute 52 seconds behind the dominant Australians and 52 seconds off England, silver medalists, New Zealand were never in touching distance of the race leaders.

But after such a long wait, reaching the podium represents a breakthrough from this crafty quartet.

Who knew shoes could be so important.

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