Kris Gemmell came close to securing a spot for New Zealand at the London Olympics when he finished second at the Oceania triathlon championships in Tasmania today.
The Palmerston North competitor would have secured a place for a New Zealand triathlete at London had he won at Devenport but had to be content with a second placing behind Australian Brendan Sexton. Fellow Kiwis Tony Dodds was fourth and Martin van Barneveld sixth with Clark Ellice and Tom Davison also in the top 10.
Bevan Docherty worked hard for the team on the bike leg but was forced to withdraw midway through the run with a stomach upset that had him in some discomfort.
Gemmell's effort was a continuation of his return to form after winning the ITU World Cup race in Auckland in November and improves his ranking as the third-best Kiwi behind Docherty and Ryan Sissons and strengthens New Zealand's position inside the top eight countries to secure three athletes in London. The last chance to guarantee selection for London will come at next month's ITU World Cup race in Sydney.
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"Oceanias is always a nice race for me,'' Gemmell said. "I think the worst I have ever finished is second but it would have been nice to be on top today and secured an Olympic spot for New Zealand. But on some days you can do everything well and someone still does better, Brendan was a little bit better today.
"I'm getting close, though. This was a good field. I just got beaten by the best one on the day.
"Things are going in the right direction. I feel strong. I know there is more to eke out and with a harder bike course I'll go even better but today everyone was fresh off the bike and my strength is endurance. I got spun out on the first couple of kilometres on the run. I came right though and worked up, dropped Atkinson but couldn't close to Brendan. I gave it my all and tried my best.''
Australians dominated the elite women's race, with green and gold filling the podium. Emma Jackson won from Ashleigh Gentle and Erin Densham with Debbie Tanner the best of the Kiwis in fourth. Andrea Hewitt, the world No 2, bypassed the race to concentrate on Sydney.
Nicky Samuels and under-23 competitor Teresa Adam pushed the pace on the bike, leading a breakaway group of four, but the two Kiwis were unable to drop Jackson and Densham and the workload on the bike eventually told on the run with Samuels finishing fifth and Adam 10th.
Of the other Kiwis, Simone Ackerman finished sixth, Sophie Corbidge eighth and Rebecca Kingsford ninth overall with Ackerman winning the under-23 category from Corbidge and Kingsford for a Kiwi clean sweep.
Waikato's Mikayla Nielsen, 17, continued her incredible form in the junior ranks, backing up her win at the ITU World Championships in Beijing last year with a dominant display to win the Junior (under-19) title. Sam Ward was the best of the Kiwis in fourth in the junior men's race.