New Zealand's leading junior triathletes recorded podium finishes in the Australian sprint championships in Tasmania yesterday, while in a promising sign for the future Kiwi competitors all finished inside the top 10.
Waikato's Mikayla Nielsen, the 2011 junior world champion, was second in the women's event in Devonport despite having to serve a 10-second time penalty while Sam Ward (Auckland) took bronze in the men's race.
Faced with massive surf conditions, Nielsen was eighth out of the water and trailed Australia's Holly Grice by 40 seconds after the 750-metre swim before gradually reeling in the leader with eventual winner Jaz Hedgeland.
Nielsen and the reigning Australian Olympic Youth Festival champion caught Grice on the 20km bike leg and maintained the pressure on the 5km run home.
The 18-year-old from Hamilton was leading on the run when officials forced to serve a time penalty because of an illegal transition off the bike.
That infraction allowed Hedgeland to storm into the lead but Nielsen displayed great determination to overtake and then surge clear of Grice.
Nicole van der Kaay (Taupo) and Aucklander Elise Salt were the first among competitors out of the water and ultimately placed fourth and 10th respectively.
Ward recovered from a sluggish swim to overcome a 35 second deficit on the leaders to power home in third behind title favourite Jacob Birtwhistle and Matt Baker.
New Zealand's other entrant Tayler Reid (Gisborne) led after the swim and latched onto a break on the bike with Baker before losing traction on the run to finish seventh.
Tri NZ assistant national coach Stephen Sheldrake was impressed with the squad's efforts.
"Mikayla and Sam achieved great results on the back of clever and strong performances. "Nicole and Tayler are inexperienced but raced like professionals in their attitude, positioning, pacing and ability to cope with the conditions and the pressure," he said.
"The experience for these athletes is the key. They are up against some quality Australian athletes with national titles on the line. It is days like this that you bank for future reference as they learn how to race in top company around the world."
Australian Junior Sprint Championship results and NZ placings:
Junior Women: Jaz Hedgeland (AUS) 1, Mikayla Nielsen (NZ) 2, Holly Grice (AUS) 3, Nicole van der Kaay (NZ) 4, Elise Salt (NZ) 10.
Junior Men: Jacob Birtwhistle (AUS) 1, Matthew Baker (AUS) 2, Sam Ward (NZ), Tayler Reid (NZ) 7.
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