Teenage talent faces fork in the road

GEORGE HEAGNEY
Last updated 12:00 23/01/2014
Lizzie Stannard
DECISION TO MAKE: Lizzie Stannard.

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Lizzie Stannard will soon have to make a tough decision about her sporting career.

The Palmerston North teenager has all but been confirmed to compete in triathlon at the Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China in August, but she is first and foremost a cyclist.

Even though cycling has been her strength, her selection for Nanjing means the time to make a decision over which sport she wants to put her all into is coming up fast.

Stannard, 16, was given the spot after the Australian junior sprint triathlon series in Penrith two weeks ago, where she finished fifth and was the best New Zealand female finisher.

The Palmerston North Girls' High School year 12 student has been doing triathlons since she was 11 but said she was surprised by her selection.

"I had to rethink my priorities. This year, I had planned to focus on my cycling, but now I've got this Youth Olympics, I'll focus on my triathlon."

In December, Stannard went to the Millennium Institute with other top New Zealand junior athletes. They underwent trials, and then the team to travel to Penrith was selected.

Stannard finished second in the women's sprint race at the Whangamata leg of the kiwi Tri Series earlier this month, and was happy with how she raced in Penrith.

"I'm pretty pleased with my [recent] performance, to be honest. I surprised myself - I didn't expect to race as well. My running had improved."

Stannard still has three more triathlons in the New Zealand series this summer, but also has the New Zealand junior track cycling championships in Invercargill in March, and in a few weeks she may be selected for the Oceania cycling championships.

She is racing in the Takapuna leg of the kiwi Tri Series this weekend, in the elite field, and will be up against gun competitors like Kate McIlroy.

Cycling is in the blood in the Stannard household. Father Steve is a former professional Australian cyclist, which Lizzie said had helped her riding.

Younger brothers Robert, 15, and Thomas, 13, are also cyclists, and Robert is in a New Zealand development squad.

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- Manawatu Standard

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