DERRY triathlete, Aileen Morrison (right) will be looking to finish off a memorable year in style tomorrow when the triathlon season draws to a close in New Zealand.
The Culmore girl became Derry’s eighth Olympian when she competed at the Olympic Triathlon event in London last August, finishing in a disappointing 43rd place following an unfortunate crash on the first lap of the bike section in Hyde Park.
Nevertheless, it has been a ground-breaking year for the 29 year-old City of Derry Spartan and she has her sights on breaking into the world’s top 10 ranked triathletes in tomorrow’s ITU Grand Final in New Zealand.
The Grand Final is the pinnacle of the World Triathlon Series, attracting all the top competitors. The only notable absentee in tomorrow’s race is Olympic gold medallist Nicola Spirig, who has not raced since her London performance.
And while the world title will be contested by Sweden’s Lisa Nordon, who has been all-conquering since the Olympic Games, and Australia’s Erin Densham, who currently leads the series; Morrison, who currently lies 15th in the series, could enter the top 10 thanks to the bonus points on offer.
Morrison will certainly be glad to see what has been a gruelling season come to a close and after eight battles from Oceania to North America, to Europe to Asia and back to Oceania, it all comes down to this – one leg-crushing, gut-wrenching, tenacity-testing scenic race in oceanside Auckland.
Athletes start the day in plain sight of the crowds for a two-lap 1.5km swim by Queens Wharf before hitting the road for an exhausting bike ride.
The women will be met with a gradual climb, followed by a sharp peak that they must repeat eight times over. Those left standing will finish up with a four-lap 10km run where Morrison will be hoping to push on.
It’s a course for the all-around triathlete willing to push it to the limit and her strength in the swim and run legs should give her a great chance.
The Derry girl goes into the race on good form following a solid 14th in Japan three weeks ago, where she stuck with the lead pack until the start of the run, however, her run let her down on that occasion and she slipped down the field.
On route to Auckland, Morrison planned to take in the Hong Kong Asian Cup; however, she pulled out as a precaution when a mild cold developed after the long-haul travel.
Long, Hard Season
Triathlon Ireland’s high performance director Chris Jones suggests Morrison will be looking forward to the race and to finishing the season on a positive note.
“It’s been a long hard season and everyone’s tired at the end of an Olympic year, but Aileen is looking forward to the final race of the season,” said Jones.
“A good performance could elevate her into the top 10 or gold group as it’s known, but a top-12 finish in the world series would be an excellent result.”