Racing a triathlon or duathlon at World Championship level is only for Elite athletes, right? Wrong!
Did you know that this is a sport where people like you and me have the opportunity to race for New Zealand at World Championship level? To be part of the same team as the likes of Cameron Brown, Kris Gemmell, Bevan Docherty, Andrea Hewitt and Sam Warriner?
Further, did you know that over 70 Wellington Triathlon Club members represented New Zealand at various Triathlon World Championship races in 2009? A few have even won medals over the years!
This is all possible because triathlons are organised according to age groups. Most major triathlons are divided up into 5-year age bands, and results are shown in this way. If you’re 27 you’ll be racing against people in the 25-29 age group. Your age group is based on the age you will be on 31 December of the year in question, so you’ll be competing in the 30-34 age group at the age of 29 if your 30th birthday is later the same year.
So, provided you perform well enough against your peers in various New Zealand qualifying races, you too could be selected to wear the silver fern and race against the best in the world in your age group! In how many other sports is it possible for people in their first year to compete at a World Championship, like a number of us have done in recent years? And to experience the huge enjoyment of being part of a great team, in exotic locations, and to race at your best on the day when it really counts?
Of course it isn’t straightforward, but the fact that so many Wellingtonians have competed at a world level shows that this is not a pipe dream. Not all of us are all-round great triathletes, but we are all committed enthusiastic passionate people who love the sport, can set challenging goals and stick to them. Triathlon is a wonderful, rewarding sport in its own right, but what a fantastic bonus that so many people have the opportunity to represent the country. You do have to be a member of TriNZ (as a Club member you will be automatically affiliated). And you will have to nominate yourself before the specified qualifying races.
There are normally four triathlon World Championship races each year:
The pinnacle is the Hawaii Ironman World Championships held every October at beautiful but super-tough, iconic Kona. Just the distance itself (3.8km swim; 180km bike; 42.2km [marathon] run) is daunting enough. Add the heat, humidity and baking winds and this is one hell of a race! It is very hard to qualify for, dependent on achieving a very high placing in other Ironman races. There is no guarantee of a specific number of places being available to kiwis; the most common qualifying route for Wellingtonians is via the annual New Zealand Ironman (Taupo) in March but others may qualify via the two Australian Ironman races or others. Similarly, people from other countries (especially Australia) can pick up available qualifying “spots” at Taupo from New Zealanders. Normally between two and five Wellingtonians make it to Kona every year.
Opportunities also exist to qualify for the Standard distance (ITU) World Championships over the Olympic distances of 1500 metres swim, 40km bike and 10km run. This is held in a different location each year (Beijing 2011; Budapest 2010; Gold Coast 2009; Vancouver 2008 etc), taking place at the same event as the final race of the Elite world championship series when the world champions of the sport are crowned. Normally twelve places (more recently up to eighteen) are available in the New Zealand team in each group, with the main qualifying race being the National Age Group Championship at the Contact Energy race in Wellington every March. Qualification can still be tough, but sometimes there are other races which can offer a route to qualifying, and if you’re lucky enough (!) to be heading for the senior years, competition can ease off! The races themselves are fantastic with around 100 people from all over the world in each age group.
The World Championship Sprint (750m; 20km; 5km) Age Group races also take place during the same event as the Standard distance races, with qualifying usually being via the annual Kinloch Contact race (near Taupo) in January. Competition for places is not always quite as tough as the Standard race because many of those selected choose instead to take up a place at the longer distance.
The Long Course World Championship race is a toughie; it tends to be either twice or three times the Standard distance, and takes place at a different location every year (Perth 2009; Southern Germany 2010; Las Vegas 2011). Qualifying is normally via the Port of Tauranga Half Ironman each January, but other races (most recently the Taupo and Wanaka Half Ironman races) can also count.
The Duathlon World Championships are another option for many people, whether or not you can swim! In 2010 the championships were held in Edinburgh, and in 2008 our own Steph Anderson won the Gold Medal in the 20-24 age group in Rimini in Italy! Qualifying is usually via a Contact race in May each year.
More information about qualifying for the Long, Standard, Sprint, and Duathlon World Championships can be found at www.triathlon.org.nz.
So, go for it! And the Club will be there to help you realise your dreams!