Whanganui teenage triathlete Hunter Gibson has completed a gruelling journey to make the New Zealand age-group short distance team for the World Championships in Canada in August.
The Whanganui Collegiate School 15-year-old put a full year of hard work on the line in an attempt to make the New Zealand team at the final qualifying event in Mt Maunganui on a triathlon calendar cut short by the Covid-19 lockdown.
Gibson's build-up for the season had been going well after travelling the length of the country between November and March.
The journey culminated in a creditable bronze medal at the New Zealand Secondary Schools Triathlon Championships in the U16 boys' division in Wanaka on February 16. In the lead-up to the NZSS, Gibson had picked up silvers in both Taupo and Lyttelton.
After his success at NZSS, Gibson set his sights on a New Zealand sprint champs qualifier in New Plymouth at the end of March to have the chance of qualifying for a New Zealand tri team age-group spot for the worlds in Edmonton, Canada, in August.
The sprint distance is double the distance of his NZSS triathlon event, so he made the trip to Mt Maunganui to the Marra Sprint Triathlon to get in some racing.
At 6am on the day of the Marra, the country was going into panic mode with the Covid-19 threat cancelling his only qualifying event the following week in New Plymouth.
The Marra was possibly his last shot at doing enough to be considered for the Kiwi team and what a race he had, finishing ninth overall and fourth in the U19 division.
He was forced to seek an exception to race in the higher age division.
"Getting the email to say I had made the New Zealand team was really exciting news," Gibson said.
"With my fingers crossed that the (world) event will go ahead in August, my training has continued in my bubble and is tracking as well as it can."
Gibson is competing in an online virtual cycle competition every weekend after downloading an app produced by Triathlon New Zealand and runs a 3km circuit around his home block in Whanganui. Swimming is the only training he is missing during lockdown.
"I also can't thank my family enough for getting me to all my events, to Gareth Wright (coach) for his intensive one-on-one training and support, and the team at Velo Ronny's Bicycle Store for keeping me on my bike. They have all become a valuable part of my success."
With Covid-19 threatening all sporting events around the world, Gibson can only hope that he gets to wear the silver fern for the first time.
Triathlon's international governing body is expected to decide on hosting the world championships by the end of June.