How do you stop Hannah Wells?
It's a question triathletes everywhere have been asking all year, which remains unanswered. The scariest part for her competitors is the Tauranga-based athlete appears to only just be getting started.
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The 29-year-old's win, in 4h 21m 45s, at Ironman 70.3 Taupō yesterday completed a 2019 clean sweep in which she has won every race she entered.
It is a phenomenal achievement, particularly when you consider she spent the year balancing her training with her job in medical research. However, we may be about to see just how high her ceiling of potential really is as she has put her job on hold to be a fulltime professional athlete.
"I'm really excited, it's been a busy year, I'm getting busier and busier so something had to give and it has worked out well, it's good timing.
"I probably won't actually be training too much more but more focusing on the recovery. It will just allow me to cover better between days and sessions which is just as important as the training really."
She was "super stoked" with the win in Taupō on Saturday which was all the more rewarding after struggling at times during the race.
"I'm really happy to take that win, I really wanted to win this race so it was nice to do that.
"It was a tough day for me though, I felt a little bit flat from the start, had a bit of a tough swim and was cramping in my legs. I had a little bit of time to make up getting on the bike but that didn't worry me because that's usually the case anyway.
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"I rode pretty hard, probably harder than I usually would but that was my tactic for this race, and I didn't really want to have a run battle because I felt a bit flat. I managed to come into T2 with a little bit of time up my sleeve and just had to hold on for the win."
She finished ahead of a pair of Australians. Felicity Sheedy-Ryan, of Western Australia, was second in 4h 24h 51s and Victorian Grace Thek was third in 4h 26m 41s.
"It definitely was a hard day but the harder the day the bigger reward. That's the final race of 2019 and it's been a really good year. Sticking to my race plan each race obviously helps and having a solid plan in place depending on who turns up and what the course is like."
Meanwhile, Taupō 22-year old Kyle Smith took out the men's pro race in a time of 3h 49m 23s.
He was closely followed by 24-year old Max Neumann, of Australia, just 20 seconds later, while 22-year-old Hayden Wilde from Whakatāne rounded out the podium in a time of 3h 52m 39s.
Smith and Neumann played a tactical game of cat and mouse right from the swim exit, with Wilde putting in a solid effort on the bike to try and catch the flying leaders.
Smith hit the run with a small lead of 26 seconds over Neumann, eventually winning the battle of wills to cross the finish line in first place.
An emotional Smith credited his hometown support – and the inspiration of Wilde – for the win at his debut 70.3 distance.
"I was really suffering for the last three kilometres and I was seeing stars. I don't think I would have made it home without the crowd support – everyone shouting my name got me there.
"I didn't know what to expect. I knew it was going to be a hard day and I went into it with full respect for the distance, and for the other competitors.
"It's been a hard year with lots of ups and downs, sickness and injury which has been eating away at me. I've worked so hard… to have that recognised by lifting the tape… is just amazing."
Olympic-hopeful Wilde said his half-distance debut was "good fun", despite dropping his bike in transition and losing his chain and a shoe in the process.
"That put me 30 seconds back on the lads and I needed to be careful not to blow up. I had to play it conservatively.
"Today sets me up well for the Olympic distance and I've definitely picked up some endurance gains from it. You have to respect the distance and four weeks training after the ITU season just wasn't enough.
"But I wanted to come here and it's great to be on the podium."