Swimming is Kate O'Malley's forte and that's understandable for the Westshore Surf Lifesaving Club member, who three years ago helped saved six lives while holidaying at Ohiwa Beach Holiday Park, near Whakatane.

O'Malley also is partial to triathlons but that didn't stop her from competing in the New Zealand Duathlon in South Auckland on Sunday.

The 28-year-old got on the podium for a bronze medal in her 30-34 female age-group category to finish sixth overall in the gender's open grade. She clocked 1h 1m 12s in the event — 4.5km run (17:44), 20km cycle (33:23), 2.5km run (10:06) — staged at the Pukekohe Race Track.

"I sort of surprised myself because it's duathlon and it's not really my forte," says a chuckling O'Malley, who doesn't consider herself a cyclist although her accomplishment has come as a timely catalyst.

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"It was more a training run and practise before the world champs," says the head of PE and health department at Sacred Heart College in Napier.

O'Malley has qualified for the Triathlon World Championship in Gold Coast, from September 12-16, after winning her age-group division in a triathlon at Mt Maunganui in November last year.

The Gold Coast event has lured more than 5000 of the world's best elite and age-group triathletes for the final race of the 2018 season. They will represent 46 nations at Southport Broadwater Parklands, the site of the ITU World Triathlon Gold Coast and home to the 2009 ITU World Championship.

O'Malley is bracing herself for the humidity of the tourist city in Queensland.

The Pukekohe was a "draft legal race", which means athletes are permitted to sit behind opponents on the bikes but they must drift ahead every so often to shoulder their share of the hard yards in the peloton.

She labelled the course "perfect", echoing the sentiments of the majority who thrived in the breathless, clear blue sky day where the tarmac-like tracks made cycling and running a joy.

Katherine Reardon, of North Harbour, won the F30-34 category in 1h 52s with Alice Wilson, of Tauranga, coming in second, clocking 1h 55s.

The flirtation with triathlon, at 24, for O'Malley came more as a challenge in the IronMaori Hawke's Bay to see if she could do it because swimming was a given but cycling was a hard graft.

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O'Malley caught the triathlon bug after a top-three, age-group finish in the IronMaori.

"I prefer having a swim [before] the bike [because] I feel like I have more of a head start if I have the swim first," she says of the 750m to 1500m swim legs.

The Sacred Heart College old girl's love for surf lifesaving began at 14. The former Reignier Catholic School pupil, who completed intermediate at St Patrick's School, followed in the footsteps of her brother, John O'Malley, now 30 and living in Auckland.

She says the surf lifesaving events, such as the 2km beach sprints and swimming, created an appetite for triathlons.

While attending Otago University in Dunedin she took a shine to road running before the Triathlon Hawke's Bay weekly races beckoned in Napier.

"I think it's just something I enjoy doing in my weekends and in summer when we have that time off school."

No doubt, O'Malley sees immense benefits in building a healthy template.

She is hoping to become a billboard for her proteges at Sacred Heart College.

"It's only my second year here so I'm trying to build up numbers."

Lachlan Cairns (left), of Hastings, with Bevan Jacobs, of Waipukurau, is also into ocean swim racing. Photo/file
Lachlan Cairns (left), of Hastings, with Bevan Jacobs, of Waipukurau, is also into ocean swim racing. Photo/file

Fellow Triathlon Hawke's Bay member Lachlan Cairns also collected bronze medal in his male 20-24 age-grade division to finish fifth overall in a time of 52m 39s.

The former Lindisfarne College pupil, who won Hawke's Bay Secondary Schools at Pandora Pond, Napier, in March last year, clocked 14:25 (run) 29:37 (bike), 8:38 (run) in Pukekohe.

For someone who took to triathlons as a 13-year-old, "wobbling all over the road on a mountain bike", Cairns, was faster than the men racing in the Triathlon Hawke's Bay Club Championship last year.

The athlete from Hastings, who is under the tutelage of Ken Maclaren, also is an ocean swim competitor.

Vicki Wade-Fleming, a Triathlon HB member, was first in the female 50-54 age-group category 1h 3m 41s (18:08, 35:14, 10:20).