It's been a successful start to the 2022 triathlon season for Taupō triathlete Nicole van der Kaay, who has claimed her first podium finish as an individual at a world championship event.
Van der Kaay took silver at the Hamburg Wasser World Triathlon Championship Series event in Hamburg, Germany, on September 18, finishing just 3 seconds behind German winner Laura Lindemann. Summer Rappaport of the US was in third.
This was a sprint distance triathlon (750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run) and is not the first time van der Kaay has made the podium in a World Triathlon Championship Series event, although the other occasions have been when she has been competing in relay events.
While van der Kaay was in the chasing group after the swim, she was able to make up time during the bike-run transition with a super-efficient changeover that was enough to put her into the leading pack for the run, with the chasing group not far back.
Knowing they had some really fast runners behind, it was just a matter of seconds for the leading group of four to increase the pace and start losing chasers, and by the time the athletes passed through transition for the last time before crossing the finish line, it was just Lindemann, Rappaport and van der Kaay running shoulder to shoulder.
With 300m to go, Lindemann decided to add an extra gear and went for the final push, to cross the finish line in first place with van der Kaay 3sec behind to claim silver in the best result of her career so far.
"I don't really have any words for it. I didn't know what to expect from this race. I have never been on a podium for this so I am over the moon really," van der Kaay said after the race.
"It was a surprise for me to be up front, but I knew my running was in good form. I knew I was feeling good and coming into some peak form.
"Coming into the end I knew it would be tough, I've never actually been going for the podium let alone the gold, so I gave it my all and came away with second, so I am very happy."
The next day Nicole was back on the course, competing in the New Zealand mixed relay team along with fellow Kiwis Saxon Morgan, Ainsley Thorpe and Trent Thorpe, which finished in a creditable fourth place, one minute behind race victors Germany.
The Hamburg Wasser World Triathlon Championship Series event counts as the first race of the 2022 triathlon season, so van der Kaay's silver has put her at second place in the world rankings.
The outing tops off two months of competition for van der Kaay, who went from her 29th place in the individual women's triathlon event at the Tokyo Olympics and 12th as part of the Olympic mixed team relay event, straight to a string of events in Canada and then Europe.
In Canada, she secured ninth place at the World Triathlon Championships Series in Montreal and a silver for the New Zealand mixed relay team at the same venue.
She is now on her way home to New Zealand.