Hewitt hot pick for Olympic medal in triathlon
First the good news: Andrea Hewitt is in tip-top shape two weeks out from the triathlon at the London Olympics.
New Zealand coach Greg Fraine described the Canterbury 30-year-old as "true world class", although he stopped short of saying a medal was in the bag.
"She knows what it will take," Fraine said from New Zealand's training base in Sete, France.
"Each race has so many twists and turns in how it is played out, that nothing can be predicted."
Hewitt is the most consistent athlete on the world circuit, women or men.
However, Helen Jenkins from Great Britain and Australia's Emma Moffatt can be quite brilliant, and into the medal mix must go Paula Findlay (Canada) and Laura Bennett (United States).
Fraine believed that because they were so close it might simply come down to who spent the most petrol getting into the lead bunch on the 10km run.
Hewitt's New Zealand team-mates are Kate McIlroy (Wellington) and Nicky Samuels (Queenstown).
In an encouraging sign, they finished eighth and sixth, respectively, at the most recent ITU race, in Kitzbuhel, Austria, which suggests they are top 10 material in London.
Interestingly, McIlroy lost a couple of spots because of a time penalty on the run, so if she is on her best behaviour in London, then she could be one of the race's surprise packets.
"Kate and Nicky, as shown in Kitzbuhel, are capable of running at the same speed as the front athletes," Fraine said.
However, he noted the pair's run speed over the first 2km was slower than he liked, so improvement was sought on a flat and fast London course.
Team tactics could play a part, although Fraine made it clear McIlroy and Samuels were not expected to "sacrifice" for Hewitt.
Well, that was the good news.
The men's team of Bevan Docherty, Kris Gemmell and Ryan Sissons are not fancied based on recent results.
Docherty has the runs on the board (silver in 2004 Olympics in Athens, bronze in 2008 Olympics in Beijing) but could manage only 22nd in Kitzbuhel this month, so it is hard to see him walking away with the complete set of Olympic medals.
Fraine bristles at the suggestion that most triathlon buffs have given up on Docherty and co.
"The men have not and we love an underdog," Fraine said.
"I admit Alistair Brownlee (Great Britain) is a class above everyone else but triathlon is one of the sports where race dynamics can impact massively on results. Results say that no-one can really touch Alistair Brownlee but Bevan and Kris are seasoned campaigners and yes they can challenge."
Sissons is no slouch, but the Rio Olympics might be more his go.
"Ryan is a champion in the making and is a real 2016 medal contender."
The New Zealand team hits London on August 1 and the women's race is on August 4 and the men's on August 7.
Expect one medal - to Hewitt.
Anything more would be a surprise.
The Dominion Post