Racing with world's best
For 40 or so Nelson triathetes and swimmers, a long period of intense training aimed at the Auckland world championships in aquathlon and triathlon is nearly over.
Next weekend, the world's elite triathletes will be racing in front of a television audience of millions. Can either Bevan Docherty or Kris Gemmell recapture top form and knock off the top Brits, Alastair and Jonathan Brownlie, or Spain's Javier Gomez?
Can Andrea Hewitt climb back from fourth in the world to claim either the world title in the big race, or the world series title, with Auckland scoring double points?
There's also the question of whether Nelson Tri Club members Rachel Klamer and Maaike Caelers can climb on to the podium. Klamer was hot mid-season and Caelers is coming into the best form of her life after recent podium placings in world events.
For our local competitors, the first test comes on Wednesday, when 21 Nelson club members will start in the age group World Aquathlon Championship, beginning with a 1km swim beside the Cloud on Queen's Wharf and ending in a 5km run around Viaduct Basin.
At last weekend's national road relay championships, two Nelson teenagers better known for swimming showed there was nothing wrong with their running. Francesco Cheruseo took the fastest time in the composite team section on his leg, while Kaiori McGuinniety was third fastest in his.
They'll both compete in 16-19. You could expect McGuinniety to go off at high speed in the swim and be among the leaders at the end. Cheruseo won't be far away and will have some good legs on the run. Can they pick up medals at this level? It's a big ask against some hot competition.
At the other end of the age spectrum, Ben Van Dyke is a multiple world swim champion in 60-64 and he's running very quickly now, too. He's odds-on favourite to come out of the water first and hold on for a medal. Will anyone from overseas spoil the party, or will he be our first medal of the championships - and what colour will it be?
When you get past 70, running becomes a chore. Derek Eaton, Nelson's former bishop, should exit the water with a handy lead in his age group, but will he be able to hold on through the run?
The following Monday is Labour Day. At 7am, the waves begin in the sprint triathlon, over a 750m swim, 20km bike and 5km run course. It's short and sharp. Some of our most talented triathletes are in this race, but it's impossible to know the strength of the opposition.
Thirteen Nelson club members qualified, but in the heartbreak of competition at this level, three won't be diving in when the gun goes off due to injury or sickness.
At the top level nationally are Murray Tewnion (55-59), Alex Grigg (50-54), Jon Linyard (40-44) and Nige Burgess (30-34).
From 8.30am, competitors in the longer Olympic distance race will start, with a 1500m swim, 40km bike and 10km run ahead of them.
Twelve Nelson triathletes qualified to compete for New Zealand, with new Nelsonian Bruce Wacker competing in 65-69 for the United States. There's only one withdrawal so far.
It's more than 20 years since Greg Fraine won the gold medal in Brisbane, racing in 25-29. This country's high-performance coach isn't competing this time, but some of the other legends of the sport. Former world champions Scott Molina, Rick Wells, and Stephen Farrell, all representing New Zealand, will provide stiff competition for Nelson's Wayne Leighton in M50-54.
Nelson's best chance to emulate Fraine's feat is newcomer to the sport Eileen Searle. She's a huge talent in both bike and run and has been growing in stature with some intensive swim training over the winter.
In the qualifying race over the same course a year ago, Searle came within a whisker of knocking off the reigning world champion and she's Nelson's best triathlon prospect in Auckland.
Susie Wood is always close to the action. She's done almost everything - Commonwealth Games cycling, age group winner at world Xterra in Hawaii - all she lacks is a triathlon medal at world level. Racing in F35-39, she'll be one to watch.
This time next week, the aquathlon will be done and this column will come from Auckland.
The Nelson Mail