A trio of Central Hawke's Bay triathletes — including a septuagenarian who only got involved in the sport in her 50s — are about to take on the world's best at the 2018 World ITU Grand Final on Australia's Gold Coast.
Shane Janssen, Jo Baker and Julie Boshier — who will be competing in the women's 70-74 age group sprint world championships — have all had to qualify to compete at the world champs on the Gold Coast from September 12-16, where they will be among a 15-strong contingent of athletes from Tri HB.
For Janssen and Boshier, it will be their second time competing at the world champs, while Baker will realise a long-held dream of representing her country and wearing the Silver Fern when she competes at her first world champs.
Janssen, 56, a member of Tri HB for the past four years, will be competing in the men's 55-59 age group standard distance event, which consists of a 1.5km swim, 40km bike leg, and 10km run — the same as the elite competitors.
He competed at the 2015 world champs in Chicago and qualified for Rotterdam in 2017 but a lack of funds prevented him from travelling to the Netherlands. Qualifying for the Gold Coast had been the hardest due to the fierce competition for a limited number of spots, he said.
"As these events are all self-funded, and with the Gold Coast being so close to home, everyone wanted a spot in the NZ team. In fact I missed out in the first qualifying race in Mount Manganui and had to travel down to Christchurch to compete in the NZ champs where I managed to qualify," said Janssen, who will celebrate his 57th birthday at the worlds.
If he remained injury free, Janssen said a finish in the top 20 or 30 out of a field of nearly 100 athletes would be a good result.
"We do have a slight disadvantage in that we are coming out of our winter, and have had to train through the winter without any competition while all the northern countries have been through their race season.
"But I'm really looking forward to the challenge and the chance to compete while wearing the NZ fern," he said.
Waipawa's Julie Boshier said she became interested in triathlon in her 50s. In 2016, she came first in NZ in her age group at a qualifying race at Kinloch, near Taupo, to qualify for the 2016 ITU grand final in Cozumel, where she finished second in the world aquathon and third in the her world sprint triathlon age group "as a young 70-year-old".
To prepare for her age group sprint — which consists of a 750m swim, 20km bike and 5km run — she has been cycling all year round and spent all of July training in Noosa on the Sunshine Coast.
"In the past I have competed in the Olympic-sized triathlons, but find the sprint size more my cup of tea these days," said Boshier, who was "very pleased" to be heading to the world champs alongside Janssen and Baker.
"Fingers crossed we stay fit and do our best and enjoy the experience," she said.
Jo Baker might be about to compete at her first world champs in the women's 44-49 standard distance race, but she is no stranger to endurance sports and has had to overcome serious injury to compete.
A member of Tri HB for 15 years, Baker completed the NZ Ironman in 2015 and has ridden at four national cycling championships with the CHB Cycling Club, where her best result was a 4th place in 2017.
But after a major crash during a bike race in Morrinsville in February, she suffered eight broken ribs, a punctured lung, dislocated shoulder and a broken collar bone.
"I questioned if I was ever going to get on a bike again, let alone compete in a triathlon."
While in recovery she learned that she had qualified for the Gold Coast, which she said gave her the end-goal and determination she needed "to carry on".
With "amazing support" from a network of mates, her physiotherapist and acupuncturist as well as her loving family, Baker said she had managed to get back to "semi-full strength" in a very short time to fulfil her dream.
"Since starting triathlon it has always been my goal to wear the Silver Fern and represent my country," she said.