Wanaka still has a part to play, says top coach

Last updated 05:00 18/01/2014
Kate McIlroy
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax Media
WANAKA POSITIVES: New Zealand triathlon representative Kate McIlroy in action in Wanaka last year.

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Triathlon New Zealand high performance coach Jon Brown believes Wanaka will continue to play an important role in the sport's programme despite a new base being developed in Cambridge.

"[Wanaka] has become the summer training location of choice, really," Brown said.

"You can train at altitude at Snow Farm and then do high intensity training in Wanaka. It's one of the few locations in the world where you can do that. There's not many places where you can do training high up and 20 minutes later get a 300m change in elevation. It's a unique, geographic opportunity. It's not only triathlon, it's winter endurance sports [as well]."

Brown said it was important to make the most of the opportunity Wanaka provided.

"I'm keen to continue that, it's a great location, a very scenic training location. It gets busy at this time of the year, but it's just a great place to do training and just get outside and get the work done."

Snow Farm manager Steve Gould had provided another attraction for athletes with a portable pool at altitude.

While there had been some teething problems with the robustness of the pool, those issues would be sorted out soon, Brown said.

Intensive swim training would still be done in Wanaka, but being able to do easy sessions at altitude in the nearby Cardrona Valley was a definite bonus, he said.

Brown believes triathlon's shift to Cambridge, where it will sit alongside rowing and cycling, would also provide benefits.

"It's probably a unique thing for New Zealand, something we haven't seen to this extent for endurance sport, and I think it's a great opportunity to benefit athletes of each sport."

New Zealand triathlon was in good heart at the moment, Brown said.

"I think it's pretty exciting, I think the talent is there. The athletes that we have here now, they all have the potential to be some of the best in the world. They are in a situation now where if they can't do it in this environment, they're never going to do it," he said.

"They are on an even playing field with Britain, Germany, France – the major competition."

Brown has been pleasantly surprised by the work ethic of triathletes in the New Zealand programme since taking over the high performance role last April.

"They are really enthusiastic about what they are doing. It makes my job easier. It was a pleasant surprise, and something that isn't unique to New Zealand athletes but is one of the key traits that they have."

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Brown competed for Great Britain at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Games, finishing fourth in the marathon at both editions.

He later joined Canada's triathlon programme as a running coach and worked with Simon Whitfield, coaching the Canadian team at the 2012 Olympics.

He will take part in the 21km running leg in the teams event in today's Lake Wanaka Half – which runs alongside the Challenge Wanaka iron-distance race – along with talented youngsters Sam Ward, who will do the 1.9km swim, and Aaron Barclay, who will do the 90km bike leg.

- The Southland Times

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