Coast to Coast draws international influx
Next week's Coast to Coast looks set to have the strongest international lineup in the event's 31-year history.
When the annual multisport race was first held in 1983, there were just three participants from outside New Zealand. Since then, it has attracted more than 1500 international competitors from 30 countries, including several international winners.
Race director Robin Judkins said they had received 90 international entrants for the 243-kilometre running, cycling and kayaking race, which will be held next Friday and Saturday. With entries still rolling in every day, that number was only likely to increase.
Interest has come from as far afield as Australia, Canada, Belgium, Brazil, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, Sweden, the United States, Wales, the United Arab Emirates and Zimbabwe.
There had been a major surge from Great Britain with 35 entries received - the most ever. Australia has 33 competitors confirmed, with the US the next highest with 10.
"The impressive thing is that among New Zealand regions only Canterbury has more entries than the internationals," Judkins said.
"This is the biggest British entry we've ever had and it's also the first time any other country has outdone Australia."
Several overseas names could contend for the men's one-day race title with 25-year-old Australian Alex Houghton, who mixes triathlon and multisport successfully, Christchurch-based Brazilian Flavio Vianna and Swedish-based American Scott Cole potential challengers.
Adopted Kiwi winners are a familiar theme at the Coast to Coast. Emily Miazga was from Canada when she finished third in 2004, but never went home and after becoming a West Coaster went on to win three women's individual titles in 2006, 2008 and 2009.
Elina Maki-Rautila, now Ussher, was originally from Finland, but now lives in Nelson with husband and five-time champion Richard Ussher.
She first made an impact in 2006, finishing second, before eventually winning the race in 2010 and 2012. She again looms as a favourite for this year's women's one-day individual prize.
The Coast to Coast traverses from Kumara Beach on the West Coast to Sumner Beach on the Pacific Coast.