Kiwis Kyle Smith, Hannah Berry Claim Home Wins At 70.3 Taupo

Saturday 09 December 2023

New Zealand triathletes Kyle Smith and Hannah Berry have today claimed victory on home soil at the 2023 IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo.

The Kiwi duo repeated their success from 2019, when IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo was last held, to round out the year in impressive style.

Smith took the tape in 3:44:30 after a fierce battle with Australian Kurt McDonald. In a thrilling sprint finish, Kiwi Jack Moody surged past McDonald as the pair hit the red carpet of the IRONMAN 70.3 finish chute to secure second in 3:45:19 – just three seconds ahead of the gutsy McDonald.

Taupo-raised Smith was emotional as he crossed the finish line to the cheers of his hometown crowd.

“When the race is so on the edge of your seat all day, and you don’t know whether you’re going to win and you have to really dig deep mentally and battle some demons almost, it doesn’t sink in until you come down the finish line and then all the emotion hits you. Whereas when you’re in the lead by quite a bit you get time to process it but there’s no time to process it until you come down the finish line, so I got pretty emotional and winning here is just incredible,” he said.

Smith was at the front of the race all day, exiting the swim in second just behind Spain’s Javier Gomez, and biking and running in the lead pack for the majority of the 113km race.

Smith and McDonald entered T2 together and would run side by side for 15km until the Kiwi put in a surge to pull away from McDonald over the final few kilometres.

“It was a tough one, kind of reminiscent to 2019 as well with Max Neumann, pretty much the exact same, we came off the bike and then with a few k’s to go I had to make that split. It was an incredible race,” he said.

“The crowd support was just insane, when I made my attack, I knew exactly where I was going to make it, I know this course like the back of my hand and as I made the attack I ran through the Tri Sport Taupo juniors, saw the young kids all screaming my name and getting really hyped up and it just gave me goosebumps and that extra kick just to make that attack stick.”

Having already secured his 2024 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship slot at IRONMAN 70.3 Ireland in August, Smith is looking ahead to next December with excitement and buoyed by his win today.

“It’s going to be incredible, I’ve put a big red circle around that date for next year, it’s going to be my number one goal for next year to try and be a World Champion here, it would just be a dream. That’s going to be my project for the next 12 months,” said Smith.

Hannah Berry’s win in the women’s race was in much the same vein as Smith’s in men’s race, with Berry in the front group out of the water and remaining there throughout the bike, before kicking early in the run to take the lead away from Dutch athlete Lotte Wilms and fellow Kiwi Rebecca Clarke.

Berry secured the win in 4:14:59, more than five minutes ahead of Wilms. Clarke rounded out the podium in 4:21:46.

“Feeling super stoked, it means a lot to come here to Taupo, a New Zealand race at home, and take the win. Really happy with how my race went today, finally had a good run in an IRONMAN 70.3 again so just super stoked,” said Berry. “It means so much to round out the year with a win, I’ve had quite the year, so it means a lot.”

Wilms, Clarke, Berry and New Zealand’s Hannah Knighton exited the water one after the other, but Knighton soon fell off the back of the lead group on the bike leaving the three experienced athletes to battle it out for victory.

The trio entered T2 together, but by the 3km mark on the run Berry had opened up a 50 second gap on Wilms, and a minute over Clarke, which she would go on to extend over the 21.1km run.

“I wasn’t sure how the swim was going to go, we’ve got some really strong swimmers here in this field so I knew the pace was going to be hot from the start. I was actually really happy with my swim, to come out with those girls shows my swim has come a long way this year, it has been progressing across the year, so to have that swim was probably the swim of my life. That set me up really for the day, biked with the girls and then just ran the best I could and that was enough to get the win.”

Berry had already secured her 2024 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship slot prior to today’s race, with the win giving her confidence ahead of the race in Taupo in 12 months’ time.

“Worlds coming to New Zealand next year is going to be incredible, I can’t wait to be honest,” said Berry. “I think we’re going to do a great job hosting the World Champs here and having a good race here this year just gives me confidence for that race next year. Super excited, it’s going to be a huge so I’m looking forward to it.

MALE PRO:
1. Kyle Smith (New Zealand) – 3:44:29
2. Jack Moody (New Zealand) – 3:45:19
3. Kurt McDonald (Australia) – 3:45:21
4. Braden Currie (New Zealand) – 3:47:41
5. Ben Hamilton (New Zealand) – 3:48:24

FEMALE PRO:
1. Hannah Berry (New Zealand) – 4:14:59
2. Lotte Wilms (Netherlands) – 4:20:30
3. Rebecca Clarke (New Zealand) – 4:21:46
4. Hannah Knighton (New Zealand) – 4:32:55
5. Deborah Fuller (New Zealand) – 4:35:46

IRONMAN Triathlon (Photo: Graeme Murray)


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