Andrea Hewitt only Games triathlon qualifier

FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 05:00 03/04/2014
Andrea Hewitt
JASON OXENHAM/ Fairfax NZ
TOP TRIATHLETE: Andrea Hewitt has qualified for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

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New Zealand's leading triathletes have their final chance to book tickets for Glasgow on Sunday at the sport's world series opener in Auckland.

Only world No 5 Andrea Hewitt has met Triathlon New Zealand's unashamedly tough selection criteria; her eighth place in the world series grand final in London last September giving her the nod to be the first person the national body would nominate to the New Zealand Olympic Committee for Commonwealth Games selection.

The Christchurch athlete would be joined by anybody who achieved a top-eight finish in the second and final selection race in Auckland, though with one of the strongest fields ever assembled in New Zealand, that would be no easy task.

Wanaka's Nicky Samuels was probably most likely to threaten; she finished 14th in London and has been tracking well in the off-season.

Ryan Sissons would carry the flag in the men's race with Tony Dodds (broken elbow) not on the start line, though a top-eight finish might be asking too much for New Zealand's leading male triathlete.

Should nobody meet the criteria this weekend, selection for nomination to the NZOC will be at the discretion of the national body's four-person panel which comprised national coach Greg Fraine, high performance director Graeme Maw (chairman), Lynley Brown and Evelyn Williamson.

The top-eight criteria for ''automatic'' nomination was tough, but Fraine made no apologies for that. Expectations of athletes have been set high, one of the outcomes of last year's wide-ranging review into the sport.

''I'm pretty confident given how they've been going in the buildup,'' Fraine said of Sunday's prospects, ''but we're going into a race which is probably the strongest field we've ever had assembled in New Zealand.

''To perform at this level is going to be pretty tough for everybody so we're realistic. A top-eight qualifies you and then everyone else is in the same boat - it will come down to discretion.''

New Zealand can take up to three women, three men (for the individual races) and a team of two men and two women for the mixed team relay to Glasgow.

The Kiwis were ranked second in the world for the relay so having the right mix for that event would be a big part of the selection discussion, probably more so than which athletes boarded the plane for the individual races.

Dodds' injury, suffered at the New Plymouth World Cup event two weeks ago, came at a shocking time for him, but Fraine said his missing Auckland wouldn't count against him. His performances from last year and recent training data would come into play at the selection table.

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Likewise with Kate McIlroy. The Wellingtonian was coming back from surgery late last year on a long-standing heel/foot problem that had been with her for five or six years, and she was underdone.

''She's worked a massive amount to get back to racing and running,'' Fraine said.

''It was only three or four weeks ago we had vision to compete in Auckland, she's probably ahead of where we initially thought she'd be.

''There are no expectations around her in terms of a medal-winning performance on Sunday, it's about getting her ready for Glasgow.''

- Stuff

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