Triathlon New Zealand has confirmed the U23 athletes to represent New Zealand at the ITU World Triathlon Championships in Cozumel in September this year, with three athletes joining others in the New Zealand team for the elite races.

Sam Ward (Auckland, Coach Tim Brazier), Tayler Reid (Gisborne, Stephen Sheldrake / Tim Brazier) and Maddie Dillon (Auckland, Greg Fraine) will line up for New Zealand in September in the Mexican city. Kiri Atkin (Christchurch, John Hellemans) also met selection, but reluctantly will not join the team this year as she focuses on her prior commitment with University studies in Europe.

These athletes join the previously named Junior team of Liam Ward (Brett Reid), Dan Hoy (Nathan Richmond), Trent Dodds (Bruce Hunter), Katherine Badham (Nathan Richmond), Elizabeth Stannard (Will O’Connor), and Ainsley Thorpe (Bruce Hunter), and a likely elite team of Ryan Sissons, Tony Dodds, Andrea Hewitt, Nicky Samuels and Simone Ackermann.

Sam Ward impressed in his most recent outing, finishing just five seconds away from the medals in a hotly contested European Premium Cup race in Holten. He has three World Championship appearances (two Junior, one U23) to his name and last season was in touch with the leaders midway through the run in the U23 World Championships before injury all but halted his progress.

Sam Ward competing in StockholmSam Ward competing in Stockholm
(Photo: Janos Schmidt / ITU; click to enlarge)

Reid has built into his campaign after a New Zealand summer that was wrecked by injury. A broken arm suffered in a training crash kept the former National Schools Champion away from the Oceania season of racing. The Gisborne athlete is in his first year of U23 racing after finishing 11th in a weather affected Junior World Championships last year (reduced to a Duathlon).

Dillon spends much of her time training alongside Andrea Hewitt and will be attending her sixth World Championship (one as an age grouper), her previous best elite result being 14th in the 2014 U23 race in Edmonton, while in 2013 in London she won the U23 Aquathlon title.

Tim Brazier says all three have shown good progress this season and will be looking to execute strong races in Cozumel.

“It is a great step forward to be able to select a full team of quality athletes for an U23 World Championships, after not having done so in the last few years. This is testament to the commitment and drive of the athletes to lift their performances to match the rising level in the world. This is also a reflection of their coaching, and we are very lucky to have ex-Olympic coaches in John, Greg, and Stephen working at this level, and bringing another generation of athletes through.”

Tri NZ National Talent Development Coach Juls Clonen will lead the Juniors, Brazier the U23s and Jon Brown will be lead coach for the elites. The team will prepare in Clermont, Florida for ten days before travelling to Cozumel to put the finishing touches on their build-up.

“This is the pinnacle event for the U23, Juniors and non-Olympic athletes, the goal at the start of the year was peaking and performing at their best in Cozumel, everything will be done now in the final 8 weeks to ensure optimum performance,” said Brazier.

“The World Championships is a special event, in that our team grows exponentially, not only with the addition of the Juniors, but also a large passionate age group contingent, with everyone trying to put forward their best performance. It is unique to have a World Championships from grass roots up to Elite, and we always look forward to being part of it and supporting everyone.

Further to the team being named for Cozumel, Dillon will be joined by Atkin and Zac Barber for the World University Championships in Nyon, Switzerland on the 7th August. This is another chance for these athletes to gain international racing experience and add depth to the talent pool.