Commonwealth Games qualification, tick. Best start to a world triathlon series campaign, tick.

Andrea Hewitt is fair rattling along this year, with the world championships in Rotterdam in September her biggest priority.

And if she carries on the way she's started her year, Hewitt might have good reason to have fond thoughts about the Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda where she went for some pre-world series training, along with her friend and French athlete David Hauss in February.

She has trained frequently with Hauss, who finished fourth in the London Olympic event in 2012 and was trained by the late Laurent Vidal, who was Hewitt's fiance. New Zealand's finest women triathlete admitted it looked "a really cool place with beautiful beaches".


The climate seemed to suit.

"Training has gone very well," Cantabrian Hewitt said.

"I did more hours, more training over summer in Christchurch.

"I focused a lot on cycling over January then two weeks before Abu Dhabi [the first of eight WTS events] went to the Caribbean. Two weeks in the heat prepared me for the climate in Abu Dhabi, but it also rested me."

Hewitt pointed out the season runs until September and she found that while she did good quality work there, the Caribbean also meant time to relax and she found she was more rested when raceday arrived in Abu Dhabi. The upshot was victory in Abu Dhabi in early March, then a second title on the Gold Coast on April 8, competing on the course planned for next year's Commonwealth Games.

Abu Dhabi was special, and not just because it was Hewitt's first win on the world circuit since 2011.

It was also her first since Vidal died of a heart attack in 2015 at just 31.

Hewitt, who possesses a low key persona in public, rarely showing her emotions to the world, did so after that race, in which she pipped Britain's Jodie Stimpson at the line with a withering late sprint.

"Laurent always told me that I had everything; I had the dedication, I had the integrity, I had talent and he told me the one thing I was missing was emotion. I didn't show it a lot of the time," Hewitt said, tears welling in her eyes, her voice choking. "Now I definitely have that."

Stimpson, who looked over her shoulder as Hewitt sped past with a 'What The ...!" look on her face, magnanimously added: "If I was going to lose to a sprint finish, I'm glad it was [to] Andrea."

"You couldn't have a better start to the season. The races were completely different," Hewitt said.

"The Gold Coast ended up being a pure run, a 5km sprint distance.

"In Abu Dhabi, it was Olympic distance, the bike was technical and it was really decided more on the bike than the run.

Andrea Hewitt celebrates winning the ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi after a sprint finish from Briton Jodie Stimpson. Picture / ITU Abu Dhabi
Andrea Hewitt celebrates winning the ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi after a sprint finish from Briton Jodie Stimpson. Picture / ITU Abu Dhabi

"It was winning two different ways - by myself on the Gold Coast and in a sprint finish in Abu Dhabi."

Hewitt needed two top-six finishes to qualify for the Commonwealth Games, so that mission was accomplished in some style.

Why such a strong start? "It's always hard to know if things are going well in training. It does not necessarily mean you're going to win."

In terms of training requirements, the petite, 35-year-old three-time Olympian has her bases well covered.

In Christchurch, she works on various disciplines with prominent athletic coaches Chris Pilone and John Hellemans, and Roly Crichton, the long-time swimming coach of Paralympic champion Sophie Pascoe.

"I have lots of people to bounce ideas off," she added.

She will be overseas from the end of June until October and is lining up in six of the eight WTS events, skipping Leeds and Edmonton, legs four and six, before heading to Rotterdam.

Hewitt has been at this game a while now. She switched sports after being a national surf lifesaving representative, and only competed in her first triathlon in 2005. Within months she was the world under-23 champion.

Her career has been littered with podium finishes.

She finished second overall in the world series in 2011, winning the grand final in Beijing, and taking second in the 2014 final in Edmonton.

Andrea Hewitt breaks the tape to win the ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi. Photo / ITU Abu Dhbai
Andrea Hewitt breaks the tape to win the ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi. Photo / ITU Abu Dhbai

Hers is a name which is always there or thereabouts at the top of the finishing list.

The Olympics have been a case of so near, yet so far with placings of eighth, sixth and seventh. Commonwealth Games have yielded a bronze in Melbourne, holding off teammate Debbie Tanner by a blink, and fourth in Glasgow.

Triathlon New Zealand's new high performance boss Mark Elliott, settling back into his old seat after nine years at Cycling New Zealand, is an unabashed admirer.

In his book, you have athletes who don't learn from their setbacks. Then you have others who absorb and remember the disappointing days and do their level best not to repeat their mistakes.

Elliott described her as an athlete who knows what works for her.

"She's clearly a mature athlete who knows how to perform and what shape to be in," Elliott said.

"The word consistency comes back and she's been incredibly consistent.

"She has been able to come out of the New Zealand summer and deliver and that's exciting for her.

"It's fantastic to see her show off those performances off a solid base phase, and now it's about starting again and making sure she continues to do that. There's no doubt Andrea is highly intelligent and is clearly someone who learns and adapts."

Hewitt admitted there are limits to what can be achieved and a fine line between going too far and making things work for you.

"That's why resting before a race was really important. You've got to relax sometimes."

Picking your time is an important part of life for an elite athlete.

Hewitt is off to Yokohama and leg three of the WTS on May 10.

Confidence is high, self belief well in place. She's fit as a flea. She's had a look at the Commonwealth Games course and won on it, so that's information to store away for next April 5.

And in case you wonder at the enthusiasm still being in place, there's a firm response: "That's why I'm still doing it.

"I've always found it fun, I love training and love competing and travelling, and organising the travel. The only thing is the packing and unpacking becomes tedious. I've still got a lot of self motivation. I wouldn't be doing it if I wasn't enjoying it."

Winning ways

• Andrea Hewitt has won the first two events on the World Triathlon Series this year, a first in her career.
• The opening victory in Abu Dhabi was the 35-year-old's first victory on the world circuit in six years.
• She has qualified for next year's Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast where she will be aiming to better her third and fourth placings in the last two events.