Hewitt finds belief for Olympic tri gold bid
"I know I can do it. I know I can win Olympic gold."
For someone so humble, bashful even, as Andrea Hewitt to make such a claim, you know she's having a pretty spectacular season.
Despite being in "wind-down mode" and on the brink of a two-week holiday, New Zealand's star triathlete is hoping to draw a fitting close to her best year yet in today's Auckland leg of the ITU World Cup.
With back-to-back wins on the elite global circuit already under her belt in 2011, the 29-year-old says her recent form has driven hope of Olympic gold next year into unwavering belief.
"I know I can do it, I've proven it to myself and have more confidence now," Hewitt told the Sunday Star-Times.
"It's been the best year of my career, ranked second in the world, winning the grand final of the world series [in Beijing] and then winning the next world champs in Yokohama. And, obviously, qualifying for next year's Olympic Games.
"It's all about August now, everything else is preparation.
"The last couple of races have really proven my ability – to myself. Especially in Yokohama, just running away and being alone out in front, that was pretty amazing.
"There's still a lot of other athletes who haven't found form this year but could in 2012, or athletes returning from injury, a lot of things can happen. But I know what my best form is capable of achieving."
With this weekend's hilly, downtown Auckland course tipped to favour the Kiwi athletes, Hewitt also says she's a fan of the Hyde Park Olympic route where she finished sixth on this year's ITU World Cup circuit.
"I really like the Hyde Park course and I know I can do better than sixth," she said. "There are a lot of corners on the run and it can get quite pushy, especially on the first lap when everyone's trying to find position.
"It definitely suits me. It's technical on the bike and we're not on the road all the time, going around the roundabouts and through the Wellington Arch, past Buckingham Palace, there's chance there for strong cyclists to show their stuff. I seem to manage the bike pretty well to come out into the run."
Key to Hewitt's rise this year has been a shift in training, she says, switching her coach from Kiwi John Hellemans to French competitor, and partner, Laurent Vidal.
Clearly, Hewitt has found off-course happiness, and judging by results, her private life has dovetailed perfectly with her professional career.
"It's been working really well with Laurent," Hewitt says, smiling.
"I've definitely improved my training, that's shown through in the races.
"I've been a lot stronger on the run and that's where the big improvement has been, and that's where the results have come from.
"One thing my ex-coach John Hellemans said was, `I can't be with you all the time, I can't coach you 100% of the time'. Now Laurent is with me all the time."
It has not all been plain sailing this year though, with Hewitt's family one of many in Christchurch affected by earthquakes.
"My family are all safe which is the main thing," she said.
"But my parents' house is in the red zone. They were living with my sister and now they're living with me and still deciding what they're going to do.
"When I'm in Christchurch I'm swimming between two different pools because QEII Park is closed, and for cycling you've just got to go around the road works. It's patchy.
"But to be honest, the impact is greater on my parents, the worry, as opposed to on me as an athlete.
"I try not to think about it when I'm away, I just want to carry on improving year on year.
"And I know there's more improvement to come."