Olympics: Still hurdles for Samuels to overcome

Mark Elliott
Mark Elliott
The race for Olympic selection is not quite over for Wanaka triathlete Nicky Samuels, who has been named in the New Zealand team but must wait until the end of next month for her entry to be confirmed by the International Triathlon Union.

Her place depends on sixth-ranked New Zealand maintaining its place among the top eight triathlon nations, which means Samuels must race in San Diego and Madrid next month.

The New Zealand Olympic Committee yesterday named all six members of New Zealand's triathlon team as part of celebrations to count down 100 days until the Olympic Games.

Andrea Hewitt, Kate McIlroy, Kris Gemmell and Bevan Docherty have been assured of a start but Ryan Sissons must also await ITU confirmation.

Samuels told the Otago Daily Times her Olympic berth was "98% safe but feels like 100%", as New Zealand is well ahead of seventh and eighth-ranked Switzerland and Germany, on points.

She would have to finish outside the top 40 at San Diego to jeopardise New Zealand's third women's spot and other New Zealanders, including women's team reserve Debbie Tanner, would also be racing to help keep the ranking, she said.

Samuels was in Auckland for the team announcement, which she described as a "quite emotional".

One of her first goals when she gets home is do some planning with coach Mark Elliott.

"I am excited about going to the Olympics. It is a pinnacle event in triathlon ... the Olympics is the top of the top.

"We race every year for New Zealand in every race we do, but the Olympics is always the top of the list," she said.

Only Hewitt and Gemmell met New Zealand's qualifying standards. Hewitt qualified in the ITU London race last year and again in Sydney last week, while Gemmell qualified in Sydney.

Samuels finished 12th at Sydney, narrowly missing certain selection by 14 seconds and well ahead of 27th-placed Kate McIlroy.

Samuels has been dogged recently with an irregular heart beat and after two heart operations, she felt her Sydney performance proved it was fixed.

She was philosophical about McIlroy getting the nod, because discretionary selection was based on a range of factors, including performances last season.

"It was a hard call between me and Kate, I guess," she said.

Samuels' Wanaka-based coach Mark Elliott was delighted.

"Wanaka is a great community for her to train in and be part of.

"There have been a lot of people in the cycling club and at Monday night run group who have really pushed her along," he said.

He was confident Samuels would withstand the pressure of maintaining New Zealand's ranking in San Diego (May 10) and Madrid (May 26).

"They were races she was going to do, anyhow, so it just means she will be a bit more focused ... and the Madrid course suits her because it has got a nice hill in it.

"It is a great thing that she has performed when needed to in Sydney, especially after her heart operations.

"If Nicky hadn't had to have those, I think we would have seen her in a different place to the one she is in now, not just on the edge of selection but justifying it," Elliott said.

The NZOC also announced Ryan Nelsen and Rebecca Smith as football team captains.

Announcement of the 18-player squads will be made by June 15.

The selection of 50km race walker Quentin Rew, who met the IAAF A standard on March 31, was also confirmed.

New Zealand Olympic Committee secretary general and selector Kereyn Smith said the athletes and teams named yesterday would make their mark in London.

"We've got a real reputation in both men's and women's triathlon and they have made their mark internationally.

"Andrea is a real medal contender. I'm delighted to welcome them to our proud Olympic team," she said.

The two football teams were expected to be very competitive and perform with distinction at London.

High Performance Sport New Zealand chief executive Alex Baumann said with just 100 days to go, he was delighted athletes from two more sports had been selected for the New Zealand team.


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