My expectations for the quality of this years’ Triathlon world championship were fulfilled. This was mainly because of the superb location that is like no other along with having the top Triathletes in the world there and an extremely exciting course.
It was my first time I have traveled near the bottom of the South Island and I was simply blown away by the magnificence of the place. The uniqueness and tranquility of the South Island definitely surpasses that of the North Island where I have grown up.
I departed an early 8 days before my race with my parents. We decided for a scenic trip of driving a good portion from Christchurch to Queenstown. My adrenalin kicked in early and I was especially anxious to reach the destination so consequently got pulled over and ticketed by the cunning officer hiding off the road. His advice to me that at least gave us some amusement was “Save the speed for the race.”
The remarkable weather in Queenstown seemed to showcase all it’s beauty by radiating its characteristic mountains, crystal clean waters and clean green image. It definitely put me in high spirits and I went about the week training on the awesome course and soaking it all in while conserving as much energy as I could. Swimming in Lake Hayes, the most photographed lake in New Zealand was a nice refreshing 15 C. The cycle course was one that I thought was truly awesome, the best I have seen with plenty of hills where the age groupers experienced more rural NZ and more challenging course compared to the elite who did 7 laps through Arrowtown. The cycle course was the only thing that differed between age groupers and the Elite . The run was superb too with doing 4 laps within the classy Millbrook Resort, that provided nice steep hills and beautiful scenery running through their Golf Course and having the mountains with some snow on them in the back ground. This world champs had an element of unusualness although not necessarily a bad thing but quite simply very different from all the other world champs I’ve been to that have been held in populated areas. The hype was in Queenstown but the race held in a very small Arrowntown where two transition areas complicated things slightly.
I immensely enjoyed the atmosphere of both the Aquathlon World Champs and the Parade of nations in the build up to the weekend of triathlon racing. The parade was a very special occasion for me with showing my changing of alliances. Felt a bit strange at first since my previous 4 world champs I have always patriotically worn black and white. Saying that however this change definitely didn’t seem out of place, as I know in my heart I have done the right thing by supporting the nation that supports me. I wore the USA uniform with pride and even tied my USA flag around my neck wearing it as a cape. Out of all the Americans it seemed funny that local kids were singling me (a kiwi in disguise - haha) out for my autograph.
My race was atrocious to be totally honest. I lacked my usual dynamic oomph and struggled immensely through each discipline. Where my strength is usually my strength and a course so hilly and challenging should have showed my talent but the opposite happened. Reason being I unfortunately I burnt myself out just 5 weeks before that race so I pretty much kissed bye my chances of peaking and getting a solid place or worthy time to reflect my dedication I have put forth throughout the year for this race. I guess it was rather a miracle I managed to compete and finish when I could barely run 5mins 4 weeks earlier. I came 48th in the middle of my field. I ran in with both a New Zealand flag and American flag to symbolize my love for both countries. Frustrating my result indeed but not the end of the world. I haven’t lost heart, instead I am looking forward to an exciting 2004 where no doubt I will redeem myself many times over.
There’s nothing quite as spectacular as watching the pros right there on the course. Being the day after we raced was a beauty way for us to wind down and have fun. The women’s race was exciting with it being a battle between Americans and Aussies. I was really impressed with young Emma Snowsill from Oz blitzing the older and more experience women on the run course. Laura Reback from US won silver and Michellie Jones from Australia claimed bronze. The men’s race was frankly a huge disappointment except for some stellar commitment by an Aussie and a Swiss. I had high expectations of the Kiwis’ giving it a solid go and medalling but they seemed only interested in gaining Olympic selection. There were only 2 guys in the entire field who I respect for showing the right attitude towards racing. Peter Roberson and Olivier Marceau!!! They broke the pack on the bike at the start and the monstrous pack just sat up, watched and let them go. These guys showed the guts and determination of real athletes by cycling hard, which inevitably gave them a 2min lead going into the run from the lethargic bunch. The race became too predicable because Robbo would never be caught for he’s an exceptional runner. He was highly worthy of gold for giving his best throughout the whole race. High credit to Marceau for his Bronze, being caught only by the fast running Ivan Rana – last years world Champion. New Zealand did do well overall with the best claiming a 4th Bevan Docherty, 5th Hamish Carter and 7th Craig Watson. I thought it was a disgrace the lack of
motivation from the mammoth cycling pack – especially with out spoken comments by athletes such as Kris Gemmell and Number 1 world ranked Greg Bennett claiming before the race they would chase any down any break away. I think it was a great shame Craig Walton (the powerful Aussie who is the best Non drafting exponent in the world) wasn’t allowed to race because I think he would have kicked some serious ass since he races hard from start to finish and this was his kind of course. The absence of Hunter Kemper meant there were no Americans to excel. I’m sure though in a few years that Americans will be the force of men’s Triathlon since USA Triathlon are doing a superb job in helping young talent.
I would love to see Elite Triathlon go back to Non-drafting to make the cycle more significant and fair. However Triathlon is fast becoming a big spectators sport especially now it’s reached the Olympics so we have to take the bad with the good. I only hope I can raise my game within a few years to race these guys and show a winning attitude with racing with heart, guts and determination towards aiming for victory. Shouldn’t one back themselves to win every race? Especially a world championship?!!
I wish everyone all the best for 2004. A new year to start off with a clean slate! Go confidently in the direction of your dreams and make of what your heart desires.
Daniel Clout (Kiwi fella who speaks his mind!)
Years in Triathlon: First triathlon at age 12
Heart Rate Resting: 32
Coach: Michael Jacques
Go PROFESSIONAL within a few years.
OLYMPICS 2008 is a VERY realistic goal - so I will keep extremely focused on achieving this.