The New Zealand team for the first Triathlon Mixed Relay World Series event of the season in Abu Dhabi on 7th March has been named with six athletes making up the squad.
Nicole van der Kaay, Sophie Corbidge, Andrea Hewitt, Sam Ward, Hayden Wilde and Ryan Sissons have been selected.
General Manager of Performance at Triathlon New Zealand Hamish Carter says the selectors have picked six athletes as part of the team to represent New Zealand in the last World Triathlon Series (WTS) Mixed Relay event before Tokyo. “Olympic selection happens in April and this being a WTS race it’s the highest level of racing and a great opportunity for the selected athletes to show what they are capable of. There are limited races left between now and Olympic selection so this is an opportunity for athletes to put their best foot forward”.
Carter says that the selectors have gone with a slightly different group than those that raced last year, he says that this is an indication that they are wanting to see what other athletes are capable of, so they have the best group to pick the best team from. “This is an opportunity for some of the athletes to show what they can do in a Mixed Relay race, including Andrea who hasn’t raced Mixed Relay since Edmonton in 2018 plus Sam and Ryan who only raced in the Mixed Relay team once last year”.
Carter says that the next opportunity after Abu Dhabi will be the Mixed Relay Oceania Championships in New Plymouth in March alongside the New Plymouth ITU Triathlon World Cup. “We will be able to enter multiple Mixed Relay teams and ultimately there is also an individual element which the selectors will also factor into selection. Being on New Zealand soil and having the NZ Age-Group Sprint Distance Championships happening at the same event it’s going to be a great specticle for anyone coming along to watch”.
Nicole van der Kaay says that she is pleased with being selected after coming back from injury “I’m thrilled to be named apart of the mighty NZL team! It’s been challenging at times after injury. However, the body is much stronger and I cannot wait to get out there again and show the world what we’ve got.”
Hayden Wilde says that he is looking forward to the season ahead. “Abu Dhabi is a great location to race and as it’s the first race of the season I’m keen to see when I’m at. I had a great year last year and hoping I can back it up”.
Wilde also says “I’m always stoked to be part of the New Zealand team and I’m looking forward to flying the kiwi flag whatever my role whether it be racing or as a reserve supporting the team. It’s also been great getting extra support from the New Zealand triathlon community heading towards Tokyo 2020”.
Sophie Corbidge says she is pleased to be heading back to Abu Dhabi after some success there at last years event. “After coming home with a bronze medal in Abu Dhabi last year, I couldn’t be happier to be named in the team going back in 2020.
Corbidge also says the team and herself are in great shape heading into the first WTS event of the season. “The back half of 2019 wasn’t without it’s challenges for me, but I am really excited to be firing in all cylinders this year and ready to perform to the best of my ability. NZ has a really strong group of athletes in the High Performance system so I am confident we can come away with a great result ahead of Tokyo.”
Sam Ward says he is looking forward to returning to Abu Dhabi. “Looking forward to heading back to racing on the F1 Yas Marina track. I have good memories from last year with good races. The form is coming along strong and keen to get back into the racing season”.
Andrea Hewitt says “Abu Dhabi is a race which holds a lot of good memories for me, so I am excited to be going back”.
Ryan Sissons says that he is ready to show what he can do in Mixed Relay racing. “I’m really looking forward to the first WTS of the 2020 season. I’ve had a great summer of training so far and I’m looking to translate that into some good racing in Abu Dhabi. It’s great to be in the Mixed Relay team, New Zealand have a lot of great talent and I will have to be at my best to show what I can do it that format”.
The entertaining format of mixed relay has been included in major games programs such as the Youth Olympic Games, the Commonwealth Games and will make its Olympic debut at the 2020 Tokyo Games.
The key Mixed Relay events for this season are Abu Dhabi on the 7th March, Chengdu Olympic Qualification on the 09th May (for teams outside the top seven ranking), Hamburg ITU Triathlon Mixed Relay World Championships on the 12th July and Tokyo Olympic Games on the 01st August
Nicole van der Kay
Nicole was attracted to triathlon for its variety and capacity to absorb her boundless energy.
2018 saw Nicole’s best results include a fourth place finish in the ITU Triathlon Grand Final Gold Coast and podiums at various other ITU events.
From Taupo, van der Kaay is currently studying towards a BSc in Psychology.
Sophie lives and trains in Cambridge and comes from an 800m athletics background, so thrives in short-distance events like the mixed team relay
Sophie is also studying a Post Grad Diploma of Teaching at Waikato University and works in social media.
Sam is the 2019 NZ Triathlon Champion and currently ranked 12th in the world. Sam grew up in a family that has always had a passion for endurance sport. He has been living and training in Cambridge with the NZ team for the last 4 years.
Hayden comes from a long distance off road background and has raced and won the iconic 2 day Coast to Coast, 2x Xterra u19 world champion and has also been the ITU Cross Tri U23 World Champion. Hayden is originally from Whakatane but currently trains in Tauranga. He made the change to ITU triathlon to chase his dreams to compete at the Olympic Games. In his 3 short years of racing ITU he has dropped his world ranking into the top 15, finished 11th in the WTS series. Hayden also races on the Super League circuit which is a new format of triathlon currently sitting in 2nd overall for the 2019-2020 season behind world champion Vincent Luis.
Ryan Sissons is a Commonwealth Game medallist who has also competed at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Sissons won bronze as part of New Zealand’s team in the mixed team relay event at Gold Coast 2018.
Sissons has raced on the ITU stage since 2009 and has enjoyed a strong campaign that includes two top ten performances in 2016 as well as winning the 2017 Madrid ITU Triathlon World Cup.
At the London Olympic Games he placed 33rd and at Rio Olympic Games he placed 17th.
Triathlete Andrea Hewitt has won two Commonwealth Games medals and has competed at three editions of Olympic Games.
Hewitt won the individual bronze medal at the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games. 12 years later she won another Commonwealth Games bronze, in the mixed team relay at Gold Coast 2018.
Hewitt has been performing internationally since 2007 when she won her first World Cup in Kitzbuhel, Austria. She followed that result with a strong 8th placing in the Olympic Games Triathlon in Beijing, China.
In 2011 she placed 2nd overall in the World Championship Series. The following year brought her a 6th in the London Olympic Games and bronze in the World Triathlon Series.
In 2016 she competed at the Rio Olympic Games placing 7th. Since then Hewitt’s earnt a number of significant placings and wins, including winning the 2017 ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi and the 2017 ITU World Triathlon Gold Coast and more recently winning the 2019 Santo Domingo ITU Triathlon World Cup.
About Triathlon Mixed Relay
International Triathlon Union’s Mixed Relay format has brought racing at its most thrilling, where the individual sport combines with pure team spirit. Athletes must complete a super-sprint triathlon – 300m swim, 6.6km bike and 1km run – before tagging off to a teammate, always in the order female-male-female-male. Among the most exciting aspects of these races for spectators is the athletes’ dramatic sprint and dive after being tagged by their teammate, as well as the intensity and speed from start to finish, the tight back-and-forth lead changes and team pride that this racing format elicits.
Image : Andrea Hewitt at last seasons in last years Santo Domingo ITU Triathlon World Cup.
Photo credit : Tommy Zafares / ITU Media