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8 make mark in elite tri

Wednesday 12 January 2011 | Published in Regional

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The eight Cook Islands athletes who took part in the Port of Tauranga Half Ironman at the weekend are now taking a well earned holiday after posting great individual results in the race.

The Tauranga Half Ironman is New Zealand’s premier half ironman race and doubles as the New Zealand long distance triathlon championships.

The race course itself has a reputation as being flat and fast and unlike Rarotonga, there are no pot holes, stray dogs or day dreaming tourists to contend with!

The race held at Mount Maunganui comprises a 2 km swim, 90 km cycle and 21 km run. There were 825 individual triathletes with the balance of the 1200 athletes entered in teams.

The elite racers are given a 2-minute head start to ensure they had clear water ahead of the mass start of the age grade and team competitors.

The swim leg is something of a “free for all” with few if any niceties, and swimmers can and do swim over the top of others to obtain a competitive advantage.

Elbows and kicking feet can also be judiciously employed to gain an advantage!

The water itself in the swim pack is something akin to a washing machine which came as a shock to some of the first timers from the Cook Islands who were used to the more polite swimming etiquette employed in Rarotonga.

The bike leg of the race comprised two 45km loops out to Papamoa and back.

The roads are like airport runways which allowed for consistent speeds of up to and more than 40km an hour for the better riders.

This allowed for improvements of up to half an hour for the same distance cycled on Rarotonga for some Cooks athletes.

The run itself is largely flat on the local roads, but the killer is the run around Mount Maunganui itself.

This is an undulating metal track which saps the strength, especially on the second 10km loop.

Not quite the hospital hill, but getting up there after a 2km swim and 90km cycle was gruesome.

The weather conditions for the race itself were perfect with calm conditions and a cloudless sky.

The swim leg started in spectacular fashion with 800 swimmers taking to the water.

Top two local triathletes Kelly Pick and Vanessa Palmer entered the women’s pro elite section of the race.

Both recorded fantastic personal best times and with Pick completing the race in 4.30.51 for 9th place and Palmer 4.43.17 in 12th placed elite.

Pick recorded the 3rd fastest run time in an amazing 1.30.42 and Palmer the 3rd fastest swim in 28.13.

Both gave their all and Pick collapsed unconscious on the finish line and did not regain consciousness until later in the First Aid recovery tent.

These results really put the Cook Islands on the triathlon map and confirmed both their standings in the New Zealand triathlon world.

Geoff Stoddart, the Cook Islands’ most experienced triathlete, also completed a personal best time of 4.41.51 to record third in his age group and 114th male overall.

For his efforts, Stoddart picked up a Triathlon New Zealand age grade trophy at the award ceremony held later in the day.

First timers, Taki Anaru, Rangi Apera and Apii Napa, also recorded creditable times.

Anaru and Apera were hoping to complete the race in less than 6 hours and both smashed their target times with ease with Anaru recording 5.35.01 to finish 42nd in his age group and 336th overall.

Apera finished in 5.44.35 in 18th place in her age group and 112th female overall.

Apii Napa put in excellent swim and bike legs to complete this tough endurance race in 6.20.01 to finish in 25th place in her age group and 153rd female overall.

In the team’s event, Pare Tangata and Melanie Wilson combined to complete the race in 6:40:36 coming in at 22nd female team in what was the toughest race of their careers.

Special mention must be made of the large contingent of family and friends who made their way from Rarotonga and Auckland to lend their vocal and instrumental support to the athletes along the course.

Their support was much appreciated by the Cooks athletes.

Apii Napa’s family in particular were out in force in the home straight armed with Cook Islands flags and drums.

The drumming could be heard by the Cooks competitors up to a kilometre away on the run. They were joined by Tanya Savage resplendent in full dance costume for impromptu performances each time a Cook’s triathlete passed (or indeed anyone else they liked the look of).

Suffice to say, they were very popular with athletes, spectators and event organisers alike and also attracted the local media’s attention.

For the Cook Islands triathletes, this race was the culmination of up to 6 long months of training. They and the country can be proud of their individual performances and the way they represented and promoted the country at this prestigious event.