New Zealand has sensationally won silver at the ITU Mixed Relay World Championships in Hamburg overnight, Andrea Hewitt, Tony Dodds, Kate McIlroy and Ryan Sissons bringing the New Zealanders their first medal in this format of racing in a superb overall effort.
Germany won the day in front of huge crowds, sending veteran Jan Frodeno out on a high as he winds down his illustrious career with New Zealand second ahead of the USA.
Hewitt led the Kiwis out strongly, tagging Tony Dodds in third place and immediately Dodds went about his work, arcing a high dive into the 300m swim in front of thousands of triathlon fans. The race was almost undone though when on the last lap of the bike the Swiss rider came down in front of Dodds, stopping the Kiwi in his tracks and losing 10 seconds to the leaders.
Kate McIlroy was next and she too raced strongly, closing the gap on the leaders with a strong swim and bike before running strongly as Gwen Jorgensen and Anne Haug broke away to gain vital seconds – but the Kiwis were right in the race.
Ryan Sissons then brought the Kiwis home, passing the Americans early in the run but unable to catch the Germans. Sissons again swam superbly, backing up his 9th place finish in the individual race yesterday and then rode brilliantly before running across the line for silver.
Hewitt said starting off was not too different to a ‘normal’ race situation.
“It is a lot of fun, the first leg is like an individual race, there was a lot of fighting on the swim. After my first leg it was all down to these guys and they were great.”
Dodds was next away for the Kiwis and admits he was shaken by the crash of the Swiss team that almost wrecked the Kiwis race.
“I don’t know what was going through my head, I was like, ‘I have to catch these guys on the run’, I was breathing razor blades on the run, I just wanted to put Kate in a strong position so I just gave it everything until I nearly passed out.”
For McIlroy it was a tactical battle, looking back to those behind but also focusing on the road ahead.
“A few gaps started to open up, it was about holding or increasing the gaps to the chasers behind me and I managed to hold that and have a pretty good run and set Ryan up and he had a good last leg so it was awesome.”
McIlroy says the strong team spirit in the Tri NZ High Performance camp helped them today.
“It adds to the dynamic of racing as a team, we are excited about it and look forward to racing together as a team. We raced well and consistently in a high pressure situation where any tiny mistake can cost you a position. We all stayed calm and collected and got the job done, we are really, really happy.
“The crowd around course was just amazing, they estimated it at a quarter million, it was an amazing atmosphere. Hamburg loves to come down and cheer, that was helped with Germany winning today!”
Sissons was thrilled to anchor the team to the line and a medal.
“It is always hard going last, there is a lot of pressure, I was more nervous than yesterday I think. We wanted to be on the podium today and we put ourselves in a great position throughout the race and I was lucky enough to finish it off.”
Greg Fraine was delighted for his charges, especially with the race format at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games next year.
“We have been targeting this with team racing at the Commonwealth Games next year, we target this as a group, it is something that fits our New Zealand culture really well and is quite prestigious in our sport. It is an indication of where our nation is ranked in the sport, we target it and the athletes love performing and racing for each other.”
Race favourites Great Britain had earlier crashed out of the event, with Non Stanford coming off her bike on the 6.6km cycle leg, ending hopes of back to back titles for the Brownlee brother led team.
Wellingtonian McIlroy had a word for family and people back home too, with the overnight shakes occurring pretty much as the team was racing for their silver medal.
“I heard about it on twitter, I know that everyone at home is fine, they are a bit shaken up so it was obviously quite violent, everyone is a little freaked out but they are okay. I certainly hope everyone back home has come through okay and there isn’t too much damage.”