By Doug Gray on 20/11/19 at 1:21 pm
The annual Pacific Islands Triathlon Championships (PITC) were held in Papeete, Tahiti on 10 November in conjunction with the local event held by Tahitienne Triathlon Federation.
On the Sunday preceding the event, six athletes from the surrounding Oceania countries of Tonga, Samoa, and Fiji arrived in Papeete with their coaches and OTU staff to undertake an intensive camp focused on skill development, race preparation and strategies. Joined by eight from Tahiti, the athletes ranged in ages from 15 to 22 and arrived on the island nervous and unsure of what the week would bring. Under the watchful eye of experienced coach Ben Gathercole, they developed their confidence, skill and race craft in a fun, supportive environment
The annual Pacific Islands Triathlon Championship rotates through the Oceania region providing development athletes with an opportunity to race against each other as well as local development athletes in an OTU-sanctioned event. With athletes at a variety of skill levels and at different stages in their development, the race was a chance to test skills such as open-water swimming, draft-legal bike handling and racing under ITU conditions.
The athletes navigated a two-lap, 750m beach-start swim, putting their sighting and pacing skills to practice. It was Ben Zorgnotti from Tahiti and Rhys Cheer from Fiji who led out of the water into the short beach run to transition. For many of the athletes, the use of the ITU blue carpet and gear boxes in transition was a new experience and the technical officials were on hand to brief them thoroughly before - and guide them during - the event.
The flat, 9-lap bike course was set up on closed roads in Ville de Pirae adjacent to Papeete the Tahitian Capital. Whilst not overtly technical, it provided plenty of opportunities to test their ability to get onto a pack, rotate through turns and lift the effort out of the many roundabouts to ensure they stayed in contact. With some amended rules and the open waves also on course there was plenty of opportunity to work at different paces for the athletes and made for an exciting bike section.
Exiting quickly onto the run and holding the lead for the win, Zorgnotti was a popular winner among the home crowds, with compatriot Guenaelle Rauby taking the women’s gold.
The best of the Development Athletes was Fiji’s Rhys Cheer from Fiji with bronze.
The event was also an opportunity for local Race Directors and Technical Officials to upskill under the direction of the Continental Development Coordinator, Phillip Dally, with a focus on adaptability and problem-solving at the race venues to ensure a fair, safe and enjoyable experience for all participants.
President of the host federation, Mr Joe Tarape, said it was another important step in building the capacity of skills in the volunteers, as well as giving athletes the opportunity to experience racing in Tahiti.
“We hope that by hosting so many international guests they will see that racing in French Polynesia should be on their calendar in future,” said Mr Tarape.
Federation Presidents and representatives from Tonga, Samoa, American Samoa, Fiji, Australia and New Zealand were also in attendance to see the results of the weeks camp in action following a series of planning meetings in the preceding days. The PITC pre-camp is funded from the ITU’s development fund for the Oceania region and built on the success of earlier iterations such as New Plymouth earlier this year and Samoa in 2018.
“For federations in the Oceania region that have a commitment to growing participation in triathlon to enhance the health and wellbeing of their communities, the ITU development fund provides an opportunity to support activities that develop their governance, coaching, technical and participation areas,” said OTU President Mr Peter Hedge.
The OTU also approves the Continental Cup races held in the region providing opportunities for athletes to earn valuable ITU points within their local region. The full calendar can be found here.
Find more details about this event - 2019 Tahiti OTU Pacific Island Championships