Tauranga's Hannah Wells has only just started the new professional triathlon season but she's already achieved a major milestone in her career - qualification for next year's Ironman 70.3 World Championship.
The 28-year-old completed her second race of the season last weekend, the Ironman 70.3 Western Sydney, finishing the half Ironman course of a 1.9km swim, 90km bike and a 21.1km run in four hours, 16 minutes and 44 seconds.
That impressive time was enough to gain a podium finish, coming in second only to Radka Kahlefeldt, a Czech triathlete who is the 2018 Ironman 70.3 Asia Pacific champ and 2012 Olympian.
Also up for grabs in that race was an opportunity to qualify for the 2019 Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Nice, France, in September next year, given only to the top man and woman.
Kahlefeldt, who finished with a time of four hours, 12 minutes and 25 seconds, had already qualified, which meant Wells was able to secure a spot to race at the world champs - a major milestone for her career to date.
"Every 70.3 race there are two qualifying spots, one female, one male for the pro athletes and that's for the world championships and so the girl who won, because she's Asia Pacific champ - so she already picked up a qualifying spot at a previous race so far this year - so the qualifying spot for the world champs rolled down to me and I got qualifications for the world champs ... so that was really cool," Wells said.
"Only one person qualifies per race so I'm stoked to get that.
She says qualifying for the world champs means she will have to have a big 2019 but she is excited.
"I wasn't sure if I was going to actually get that so to get it this early on in the season was really cool too because it kind of takes the pressure off."
Wells was stoked to have been able to come in behind Kahlefeldt, given her status in the professional circuit. She's been progressing steadily each race and has an idea of what to work on for her next race, which is the Ironman 70.3 Taupō next weekend.
Wells said, in the Sydney event, she wasn't completely happy with her swim, which she finished in 28 minutes and 22 seconds, but she was able to claw back some time and move ahead in the race in the bike and run legs.
At the end of her swim, Wells was fourth. Within the first 20km of her bike she managed to pass two competitors to position herself in second.
It was while on the run, which she says was a bit tough on the body due to it all being on concrete, she was able to increase the lead she had on the third placed triathlete.
That third place went to Grace Thek, who finished the course in a time of four hours, 19 minutes and 35 seconds.
Wells hasn't had a lot of recovery and training time in between Sydney and her next race on December 8, where Kahlefeldt will also be competing. She says she won;t be doing a lot of hard training in the lead up to next weekend but will work on what she describes as her weakness - her swim.
She says she will try to add another swim to her week in the lead up, with the aim of another podium finish and an improvement on her time and race overall.