New Zealand qualified three women for the London Olympic Games at the latest ITU World Triathlon Series race in Madrid, Spain, fending off a challenge from Switzerland with ease.
You needed eyes on the front, middle and rear and a calculator at hand to follow the races within the race as Germany, New Zealand and Switzerland in particular jostled for the final positions in the top 8 nation rankings.
With London very much her focus, Andrea Hewitt raced steadily, picking off a number of athletes in a strong second half of the run to come home in 9th and move back to number two on the world rankings, close on the heels of Helen Jenkins (GBR). The performance from Hewitt was all the more impressive given she was affected by a pollen allergy in Madrid this morning that affected a number of athletes, with at least one heading to hospital immediately after the race.
"I was really struggling out there today, my throat was very tight and it wasnt easy to breathe. I never felt good to be honest; I just kept working hard and managed to make up some ground on the second part of the run.
"I have been on some medication to try and sort it out but it is quite bad here in Madrid with the race set in a park surrounded by trees. I will be fine though, I will now head back to my training base and continue working hard towards London. The aim is to be fresh for London, so I will stay at sea level in the lead up.
But Nicky Samuels achieved the bigger goal on the day, securing a third spot for New Zealand and therefore herself in London with a mature and well paced effort, coming home 15th after also running through close to a dozen competitors in the 10km run. The effort was all the more amazing given Samuels was on the surgeons table just over a month ago, having her appendix removed.
"Given what I have been through in recent weeks that was as good as I could have hoped for today, I am really happy with that result. In some ways we were looking for Daniela to have a bad day and while that is never a nice thing, that was always a possibility.
"But I am delighted to have made certain of my qualification to London, and to run so strongly in a group of about 40 off the bike. I had a full week of doing nothing after the appendix operation and then had to ease back into training. The internal stitches only dissolve 5 or 6 weeks afterwards so there is still some tightness there and the abs are not as strong as they should be.
"I was a reserve for Beijing and this will be my first Olympic Games, while we were almost certain of selection, it is great to confirm my place today. I will be 100% though for London and can now head away with that as my ultimate goal. I head back to France and spend 12 days with my coach Mark Elliott and will get in some quality training time.
While Nicola Spirig (SUI) won the day, the challenge from the Swiss for a top 8 position in the nation rankings never materialised with Daniela Ryf no match for the kiwis, finishing well back in the field, confirming New Zealand and Germany as the final two nations to earn the three spots in London.
ITU World Triathlon Championship
1. Nicola Spirig (SUI) 2:06:35
2. Aileen Morrison (IRE) 2:06:38
3. Barbara Riveros Diaz (CHI) 2:06:40
4. Anne Haug (GER) 2:06:43
5. Rachel Klamer (HOL) 2:07:05
6. Ainhoa Murua (ESP) 2:07:18
7. Vicky Holland (GBR) 2:07:19
8. Alexandra Razarenova (RUS) 2:07:32
9. Andrea Hewitt (NZL) 2:07:38
10. Liz Blatchford (GBR) 2:07:43
15. Nicky Samuels (NZL) 2:08:22