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Friday 30 December 2011 | Published in Regional


Cook Islands athleticism and flair will be on full display at the Port of Tauranga Half Ironman on January 7 where a group of eight local athletes will line up alongside some of the worlds best for the annual event.

Back on the rock level 1 accredited triathlon coach and top triathlete Vanessa Palmer will be hounding the phone and internet to check on the progress and performance of four athletes she has spent several months training for the event.

Apii Napa, Pare Tangata, Taki Anaru and Jacob Pynenburg have been doing the hard yards in the water, on the cycle and run disciplines under the watchful eye of Palmer who is also one of the physical education teachers at Tereora College.

For Anaru and Napa this will be their second year in a row attending the gruelling event.

Despite niggly injuries throughout the triathlon season Palmer says the pair worked extremely hard and have had a great build up to the New Year event.

This will be the first year Tangata tackles the course on her own after getting her first taste of the event in a two-person team with Melanie Wilson last year.

This will be a massive achievement for Pare who has come so far in her fitness and swimming and cycling ability over the past couple of years, says Palmer.

Teenager Jacob Pynenburg will be one of the youngest athletes lining up on the start line of the half ironman having only turned 18 in the week leading up to Christmas.

Palmer is proud of the tenacity the young man has shown throughout the various events on the local calendar over the year and taking up her challenging training regimes.

Last year Jacob wouldnt have been caught dead doing the harbour to harbour swim, this year he gutsed his way through the race.

In preparation for the race, to be staged at Mount Maunganui and sponsored by the Port of Tauranga, Palmer has put her athletes through up to eight training sessions a week that last up to three and a half hours a session.

This is a massive commitment for all of them considering all have full time jobs, school and families.

Palmer adds that Taki Anaru and Apii Napa will be looking at setting new personal best times during the race while Pare Tangata and Jacob Pynenburg are aiming to finish the race in respectable times.

Elite athletes are expected to wrap up the race in four and a half hours and other in six hours.

But all will do the Cook Islands very proud on the day.

For top local female triathlete Kelly Pick the event offers another opportunity to pit herself against the best in the sport.

Pick will race in the elite division of the half ironman with athletes in this category expected to complete the 2km swim, 90km cycle and 21km run course in under four and a half hours.

Cook Islands Triathlon Association president Geoff Stoddart, who is also competing, expects Pick to be in the top bunch of elite division and he too will be competing in the race on January 7 in his age grade division.

After the race Stoddart will regroup for his next race at the Wanaka Ironman where he is going to race the half ironman distance of the event.

Meanwhile local women Debbie Moore and Karyn Vinsen will also tackle the race as a team with an Auckland friend; both women are no strangers to the race having completed it in the last couple of years in the teams division.

Meanwhile top local male athlete Roland Neururer is still in training mode as he prepares to tackle the Taupo Ironman in March 2012.

While the athletes grind it out they will be cheered on by a vocal band of supporters including families of the athletes from New Zealand and local girl Tanya Savage who is expected to be in full traditional costume not only to cheer on her partner Taki Anaru and the local crew but to promote the Cook Islands.