Andrea Hewitt may race in Rio - coach

Chch athlete can still be a force in four years

TONY SMITH
Last updated 05:00 06/08/2012
Andrea Hewitt
IAIN McGREGOR/Fairfax NZ
DEJECTION: New Zealand's Andrea Hewitt looks disappointed with her sixth placing.

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World No 1 Andrea Hewitt was a picture of dejection after missing a medal in the women's triathlon at London's Hyde Park.

But national coach Greg Fraine believes the Christchurch athlete can still be a force in Rio de Janeiro in four years.

Hewitt's disappointment was deeply etched as she conceded she was burnt off by four rivals on the all-important third lap of the 10-kilometre run and finished sixth.

She put on a brave smile but she was clearly hurting inside as she said: “I had energy on the first two laps, but just lost it in the third lap when [Australia's] Erin Densham pushed on the downhill."

Switzerland's Nicola Spirig edged out Swede Lisa Norden for the gold medal in a photo-finish sprint.

“I didn't expect they were going to run out like that and switch so many times on the front," Hewitt said.

She summoned enough energy to wave to New Zealand supporters in the stands as she crossed the finish line 48 seconds behind the pair.

Hewitt hinted before her race that this was her second “and probably last" Olympics, but coach Fraine cannot see her quitting yet.

He felt the Olympic race “just came down to run speed on the day".

“Andrea will be pretty disappointed with her performance; she was targeting a medal," he said.

“But she'll look at what she's done and she'll continue to learn. I don't think she's going to be retiring or anything like that. She loves the sport."

Fraine said athletes always asked themselves “a few questions after an Olympic campaign" and “probably go through mixed emotions".

Hewitt was still in her prime and could still be a candidate for the 2016 Games in Brazil.

Wellington's Kate McIlroy, who finished 10th at her first Olympics, said the team's aim was to get Hewitt a medal.

“I don't think we could have done anything more to put her in position. We did the best we could. The other girls just ran faster," she said.

Fraine said the Kiwis executed their race plan well, with Nicky Samuels, who struggled on the swim section, doing her best to ensure the chase group did not catch Hewitt and McIlroy and the rest of the top bunch on the 40km cycle leg around Hyde Park and some of London's top landmarks.

He said it was “a strange race" with “a very aggressive swim", featuring a lot of fighting for space, which caused some splits.

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“But to get two in the top 10, we've got to be pretty happy," he said.

New Zealand had two top-10 finishers in the women's triathlon for the second consecutive Olympics. Hewitt was eighth on a more challenging course in Beijing in 2008 and Debbie Tanner was 10th.

She will now support her partner and coach, French triathlete Laurent Vidal, and New Zealanders Bevan Docherty, Kris Gemmell and Ryan Sissons in the men's race on Tuesday night (NZ time).

- The Press

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