Press Release: Triathlon New Zealand.
4 March 2008.
This weekend Wellington hosts the 2008 Oceania Standard Distance Triathlon Championships, an event that also carries points for the seventh and final round of the Contact Energy My Sport Series and National Standard Distance titles in all races and age groups.
Given such a billing and in Olympic year, it is no surprise that a stellar field of the world's best triathletes is set to descend on the capital city as individuals and national teams search for vital ranking points ahead of Beijing.
Tri NZ CEO Dave Beeche is delighted with the quality of the field for this weekend's elite races but stresses the large number of age group athletes also preparing to race.
"The elite races will be amongst the best we have ever seen in this country behind the World Cup and World Championship events we have hosted. Trans-Tasman rivalry will be at its best this weekend in both men's and women's races, especially with the lure of securing a third athlete at the Beijing Games to the winning country in men's and women's elite races.
"But we mustn't forget that the age group races earlier on the Sunday morning will see many New Zealanders putting months of training and preparation on the line as they look to fulfill their own personal goals and objectives. For some that will mean qualifying for the World Championships in Vancouver in August, for others it might simply be to finish the event in good shape. Regardless, we are in for a great weekend of triathlon."
Leading the way in the men's elite race are the best of the Kiwis, including Bevan Docherty (world number 4), Kris Gemmell (5th) and Beijing contenders Shane Reed (25th), Terenzo Bozzone (27th), Clark Ellice (95th) and James Elvery (105th).
A star studded Australian team is planning to gate crash the Kiwi party though, led by Beijing hopeful and three times World Champion Peter Robertson and former World Cup winner Craig Walton.
The Australians are sending a strong squad of athletes to Wellington and are likely to race in support of Robertson in particular as he chases an Oceania title and a large points haul to improve his and Australia's ranking ahead of Beijing.
Australia is presently outside the top eight nations on Olympic rankings and needs to improve if it is to secure three starting berths at Beijing. A win at the Oceania Championships by Robertson (or Craig Walton) will effectively ensure Australia has three on the start line in Beijing as the title carries with it automatic country inclusion at the games, provided the winning athlete hasn't already qualified.
It is possible therefore that New Zealand can guarantee three places at Beijing through winning the race on Sunday, provided that is the athlete hasn't already qualified for the Olympics. Bevan Docherty and Kris Gemmell are already confirmed for Beijing while the likes of Terenzo Bozzone, Shane Reed, James Elvery and Clark Ellice are chasing the possible third spot, either through a win in Wellington or through the top eight nations on rankings as at June this year.
The women's field does not pale in comparison with the Kiwis again taking top billing in the face of some superb Australian opposition. Beijing bound Sam Warriner (3rd) and Debbie Tanner (5th) lead the way with Olympic hopefuls Andrea Hewitt (15th), Nicky Samuels (30th) and Evelyn Williamson all suiting up for the biggest race of the year so far.
Australians Annabel Luxford and Emma Moffat will lead a large Australian contingent on Sunday. Also racing is German Anja Dittmer (11th), fresh off her win at the New Zealand sprint distance nationals at Kinloch in February.
Luxford (8th) is a four time World Cup winner and former U23 World Champion while Moffat finished fourth at the 2007 World Championships and ended 2007 ranked at two in the world behind Portugal's Vanessa Fernandez.
The elite men's and women's races will include the U23's as they too race for both national and Oceania titles. Added incentive for the New Zealanders in U23 elite and all age group races is earning spots at the 2008 World Championships in Vancouver in August this year.
Consequently the U23 entry list also resembles a who's who of the sport in the Oceania region with great battles looming between the best from New Zealand and Australia.
All races will take place on Sunday March 9 and are centred on the Wellington waterfront at Waitangi Park. Course maps and further information are available at www.triathlon.org.nz
2008 Triathlon NZ National Standard Distance Championships
1500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run
Sunday 9th March
7.15am – Age Group Men
7.20am – Age Group Women
7.25am – Teams (All Grades)
2008 Tri NZ National Standard Distance Championships, 2008 ITU Oceania Championships
(plus round 7 of the Contact Energy My Sport Series)
Sunday 9th March
10.15am – Elite/U23 Men
10.20am – Elite/U23 Women
1.30pm Prize Giving for all Races