Clark Ellice is using the retirement of two Kiwi triathlon giants to reboot his career, writes Murray Hills.
A few months ago, New Plymouth's Clark Ellice was considering pulling the pin on his triathlon career.
Disappointed at missing selection in the three-man Kiwi team for the London Olympics, the 29-year-old was wondering whether or not he had the desire to continue.
Ellice, who was a reserve for the Kiwis in London, has just arrived home after six months away and says he has refocused, with selection for Rio de Janeiro in 2016 the main goal.
"I talked to a few people and they convinced me to have another crack and aim for Rio," he said. "And with Bevan and Kris [Kiwi No 1 Bevan Docherty and No 2 Kris Gemmell] both retiring at the end of this year, the door is open for anyone who wants to step in."
Ellice says the next four years are crucial.
"It's my last chance. Ryan Sissons is ranked three, then me. But you can't take anything for granted. You have to step up," he said.
"First I've got Auckland on Sunday [the ITU world championship grand final] and I want to be the first Kiwi across the line. It won't be easy beating Bevan, Kris or Ryan, but everyone's tired after a long season and I've got to give it a crack and try to get my name out there."
Ellice said Sunday's race would be his 18th event of the year.
"But that's standard, our seasons are long, but no different from other sportspeople. If you want to make some coin, you have to tough it out. I've done 21 events in a year before, but that's too many . . . it just cooks you."
His season started with an ITU Oceania qualifying race followed by the Mooloolaba World Cup and then the Olympic selection race in Sydney where he fell short, finishing 24th, and failing to make the three-man team. Then followed a world championship series race in San Diego, three French grand prix sprint distance races, three more ITU events in Europe, five non-drafting 5150 races, a half ironman time trial and a super sprint race.
The super sprint race in San Diego two weeks ago netted Ellice US$3000 (NZ$3680).
"I finished second. I got $1000 appearance money and $2000 for second. It was fun - a 300m swim, a 10km bike and a 2.5km run and then did it all again."
Longer term, Ellice said the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 was a target, as was Rio.
"Triathlon is back in the Commonwealth Games, so that's something to aim for."
Ellice said he could clearly remember the moment when he turned his attention to Rio.
"I was competing in a world championship series race in San Diego. All three Kiwi Olympians were racing and they all finished in the top 10. That proved to me they were the best men for London," he said.
"It was tough being beaten by all three. I finished 21st that day, a decent result, but not good enough. I kept climbing from there and had a good season."
Ellice said after that race he switched to the non-drafting 5150 series over the Olympic distance.
"I looked at what I wanted from triathlons and the biggest thing after missing the Olympics was money. There's a lot of money up for grabs in the 5150 series."
He won the Liverpool 5150 worth £4000 (NZ$7800).
"Not huge but it definitely helped keeping the bank balance above the red.
"Then there was Des Moines in the States, it's the richest race on the 5150 series. I had a problem with my electronic gearing on the bike. It kept on short circuiting and by the time I sorted it out, the leading bunch were gone. I finished eighth . . . NZ$15,000 definitely helped."
Ellice said it was much harder to make a living on the World Cup triathlon circuit.
"It's the pinnacle of the sport, you're racing against the best in the world. But you have finish in the top 10 to make good money. My best placing was 14th in Hamburg and I picked up US$1400. Not great, it's more about points for world rankings."
But money and ranking points aren't on his mind this week. Being first Kiwi home in Auckland is the main goal.
- © Fairfax NZ News