Ironman athlete Braden Currie has won the Tauranga Half in what could be his first and last New Zealand race of the 2022 season as Omicron looms.
The Wanaka athlete finished ahead of Jack Moody (2nd) and Sam Osbourne (3rd) in the iconic triathlon on Saturday, the pinnacle event of the Mount Festival of Multisport.
In a statement, Currie said he wanted to make the most of the day after Government announcements earlier in the week around planned Omicron protection restrictions and the impact they will have on events.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday that the whole country would move to the red traffic light setting within 24-48 hours of Omicron community transmission. Red rules include gathering restrictions.
"This race meant a lot," Currie said. "New Zealand is my favourite place to race and it may be the last time I stand on the start-line here for a while with the inevitable move to red.
"Once Omicron is in the community, many events will need to cancel so I wanted to make the most of today and really enjoy it.
"The next time I race will likely be overseas unless Omicron stays at bay until April."
In addition to the win in the half, Currie also took home the title of 2022 Long Distance Triathlon Champion.
He said he arguably broke the course record set last year by Kyle Smith at a time of 3 hours 39 minutes and 43 seconds.
Currie said he finished 32 seconds short of this but the bike course was 2km longer compared with last year.
"I had a great swim – it's not often I get away from those guys in the swim so it was nice to get clear which meant I could do my own thing for the first hour at least until Mike Phillips caught me on the bike.
"I knew Mike would ride well, but I knew as long as I stuck with him, I was confident my run would take me where I wanted to be.
"It's a good start to the season and I really appreciate everyone's support on the sidelines. It was awesome out there."
The event involves a 1.9km swim off Pilot Bay, a 90km bike including a stretch on the Tauranga Eastern Link, and a 21km run culminating in a loop of the Mauao base track.
The Tauranga Half has been part of the Mount Maunganui summer since 1990, making it one of New Zealand's longest-running and most popular triathlon events.
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