In the short space of a year, Cameron Brown and Craig Watson restored New Zealand's prowess in the world of triathlon.



Brown, in the longer version of the event, capped a successful year when he swam, cycled and ran to the brink of collapse for nearly nine hours to finish second in the famous Hawaii ironman championships.



Over the shorter distances, Craig Watson emerged in the very best of company, finishing with a bronze medal at the world triathlon championships in Canada.



Though those two results were at the peak of the sport's achievements, there were other highlights during the year, which helped reinvent New Zealand's triathlon reputation after a hugely disappointing 2000.

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After failing to fire a shot when the sport made its Olympic debut in Sydney, New Zealand turned things around to enjoy a superb 2001 on the international circuit.



The first big event for Brown last year was in his own backyard - Ironman New Zealand in Taupo, in March.



It marked a breakthrough for the Aucklander, who became only the second New Zealand male to win the race.



Brown went on to finish third in Ironman Europe, rated the most competitive and fastest ironman on the world circuit.



After finishing 26th in Hawaii in 2000, the superbly prepared but unrated Brown last year enjoyed a strong swim (3.8km) and remained in touch with the key competitors on the 180.2km cycle leg - previously his weakest link.



On the marathon-length (42.2km) run home, he reeled in all but winner Tim DeBoom, of the United States, despite suffering dehydration over the final 10km, which was raced in searing heat.



Brown paid tribute to the extra coaching he had received this year from former world ironman champion Scott Molina, husband of Erin Baker.



A drip and stretcher greeted Brown at the finish line, but the $70,000 prizemoney he earned was expected to accrue in future endurance events.

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Taupo's Bryan Rhodes won Ironman Malaysia.



A back injury forced a premature end to the year for Canadian-based Taupo triathlete Tara-Lee Marshall, who won two ironman titles in Florida and Switzerland. Christchurch's Karyn Ballance was second in Ironman New Zealand for the third successive year.



By the end of the year, there were two New Zealanders ranked in the world's top 10 after this year's International Triathlon Union circuit. Watson was at No. 2 and Hamish Carter No. 5.



Watson has shown the most dramatic improvement of the Kiwi contingent.



The 30-year-old Cantabrian has jumped from 26 at the beginning of last year.



Watson, who spends much of his time based in France, grabbed his first World Cup victory in that country in Rennes.



He followed up with the world championship bronze and two more top 10 placings, moving him to No. 2 behind Australian Chris Hill.



Injury ended Watson's year early, but next year looms as an important one, with the Commonwealth Games the main carrot.



New Zealand men earned 10 top 10 placings in ITU World Cup events last year.



The world championships unearthed a rising star in Taupo 24-year-old, Bevan Docherty, who claimed a strong seventh placing.



The New Zealand women's ranks have never had much depth, so it was of considerable merit that two finished in the top nine at the world championships.



One is an Australian - Queenslander Rina Hill - who is married to a New Zealander.



She equalled her best finish at a world champs, coming in fourth, with Wellington's Evelyn Williamson ninth.



Hill, 33, has been in sparkling form this year, with top-10 efforts in the World Cup races in Gamagori and Ishigaki and third at the Oceanias in Mooloolaba.



South African-born New Zealand schoolboy Terenzo Bozzone, 16, appeared as a strong prospect for the future after winning the Oceania under 20 championships in Queensland.



Bozzone, a rising talent, also won the world junior duathlon title in Italy.



New Zealanders continued to display their attraction to multisport events with Steve Gurney and Keith Murray leading the charge in the most extreme of endurance races.



The athletic ability and competitive streak of the pair was never more evident than in the Endurazone race which started in Bluff on November 19 and ended at Cape Reinga on December 18.



After 30 days of running, paddling and mountain biking 1998km over a variety of terrain, just over an hour separated the Canterbury pair at the top of the North Island.



Murray won a sprinkling of stages but endurance guru Gurney remained the dominant figure throughout the race.



Earlier in the year, he won his seventh Coast to Coast race, again edging out Murray and Australian John Jacoby.



The New Zealand adventure team of Nathan Faave, Kathy Lynch, Jeff Mitchell and Neil Jones finished second in the first Discovery Channel world adventure championship in Switzerland.



They had led throughout, but were passed on the final night by Nokia, of Finland, who slipped out of the camp unnoticed to win by 16 minutes.



Gurney teamed with Murray and Jacoby to win the Mild Seven adventure race - run on a stage basis - in China in November.



- NZPA