Young triathlete clinches winner's title at ITU world champs

To train, East Auckland's Daniel Whitburn runs most afternoons after an hour or two on the bike, and an early morning ...
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To train, East Auckland's Daniel Whitburn runs most afternoons after an hour or two on the bike, and an early morning swim in a pool across town.

Two weeks before 17-year-old Daniel Whitburn was due to fly to the Netherlands to compete in the World Triathlon Championships, he was t-boned at a road intersection while on a training ride.

The East Auckland resident says he remembers watching the motor vehicle driver, waiting for him to stop, then nothing - until he woke up in the back of an ambulance.

Everything, from the Saint Kentigern College student's very specialised bike to his helmet was a write-off in the collision. Everything except Whitburn.

The bike leg of the world championship triathlon in Rotterdam was an added challenge due to being staged on footpaths ...
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The bike leg of the world championship triathlon in Rotterdam was an added challenge due to being staged on footpaths and bricks in places.

However, the accident didn't stop him boarding his scheduled flight to Rotterdam, albeit with an empty bike bag.

"We were lucky we were in the Netherlands and the [bike] factory was in west Germany, so we literally drove to the factory and picked up another," he says.

"Luckily we got insurance and managed to get the exact same bike; same size, colour and model as my previous bike."   

It also didn't stop him winning his under-19 division at last month's ITU World Triathlon Age Group Championships to be crowned world champion.

Whitburn's first international triathlon was in Chicago in 2015. He says he was 15 years old and went for the experience. 

This time, he set out to win the event which saw him swim 1.5 kilometres, cycle 40km and run 10km.

"I went over there with the intention to win. I couldn't be sure I would win, but I was going to put myself on the line and really go for it," he says.

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"It was a lot different to a New Zealand event. For a start they had us racing on separated bike paths, whilst I'm only ever used to riding on the road. 

"They actually didn't have any of the major roads closed, which I was surprised about.

"At one point they had us on the footpaths and going over bricks. But it was the same for everyone and just something I had to deal with."

The international victory has helped him secure a performance scholarship with Otago University where he plans to study law and politics.

"I'll keep up my training. I have a half Ironman in January," Whitburn says.

"Once university is over I'll be about 24 and that's a pretty good age to start doing a full distance Ironman.

"That's been my dream for quite awhile. I'd love to do it."

 - Stuff

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