Grand ITU finale for retiring Kris Gemmell

SIMON PLUMB
Last updated 05:00 14/10/2012
Kris Gemmell
JASON OXENHAM/Fairfax NZ
Kris Gemmell prepares to retire from international triathlon competition.

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Kris Gemmell will retire as a professional triathlete following next Sunday's World Cup grand final in Auckland.

In a fitting end to a successful 14 years, the double Olympian will finish his elite career exactly where it began.

“Next weekend in Auckland will be full circle for me,” Gemmell told the Sunday Star-Times.

“I did my first World Cup event in Auckland in 1995. I was a late entry aged about 16 and the old man drove me up there and back from Palmerston North.

“It's pretty exciting to think that's where it started and all of a sudden I'm back there again. From an Olympic standpoint and ITU short-course racing, this is where it all ends. I feel it's time for me to move over and give the next generation a chance to make a name for themselves.”

Auckland has a knack of finding its way into Gemmell's highlight reel. Last year a gutsy display saw the 35-year-old record an emotional World Cup victory on the same downtown course as next weekend's prestigious grand final.

After a 2011 season dogged by viral myositis, a rare infection which weakens skeletal muscle, Gemmell found out four weeks before the home World Cup event that his cousin Tim had been diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Gemmell went on to win by a country mile, fighting back tears in what was also an important boost to his London 2012 Olympic campaign.

And in seven days, Queens Wharf will again be the setting for another landmark Gemmell race.

“I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be pretty emotional and the whole Gemmell clan will be there to share it with me,” he said.

“I also think it's going to lead to a better race for me, it's all or nothing. That's always as how I've liked to race. Well, it really is all or nothing this time.”

Yet to properly weigh-up his future options, Gemmell says he may well consider longer races such as Ironman. But he is already clear on one post-competitive element, he is keen to stay involved in Triathlon New Zealand's high performance programme.

“I may go and do some long-course racing or an Ironman, I'm not sure yet, I've got a few options on the table but I'll only really sit down and think about those after Auckland,” he said.

“But I'd like to be involved in the high performance programme some way, whether it's coaching or another part of the structure.”

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With London 2012 Olympic medallists, Great Britain's Jonathan Brownlee and Spain's Javier Gomez, in town for the world triathlon's season finale, Gemmell says he's realistic about reproducing the win of 11 months ago.

Nevertheless, Gemmell says his whole year has been planned very carefully around Sunday's race.

“I'd love to say top five, top 10, is what I'm trying to do, and that is what I think I'm capable of, but I understand that the bike leg and how well I can get away is going to be particularly important. It's also dependent on what race strategies other competitors deploy,” he said.

“I feel in good shape, I planned the year knowing the Olympics was a big part of it, don't get me wrong, it's the pinnacle event. But the year carries on and I have to have accountability for my performances there too.”

Acknowledging the timing element of his career decision, Gemmell said while he could carry on at a highly competitive level, he feels the time is right to go out now. “I've been in the top 10 of the world rankings for the last 11 years and it's taken a lot of effort."

“I feel like I can still compete at the top level, but I want to go out on top. I don't want to dwindle away, this sport's been too good to me. It's been such a great part of my life.”

- Sunday Star Times

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