At the final race of the year, Kyle Smith and Hannah Berry of New Zealand ended the season on a high note with victories on home turf at IRONMAN 70.3 Taupō.
The pair, who were also victorious at the last iteration of the event in 2019, pulled away on the run and beat stiff competition to the title, 12 months out from when the North Island town will host the 2024 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship.
Celebrating their wins, both Smith and Berry were full of praise for the home crowd and described the race as the perfect way to round off a long season of overseas races.
“To race here at home is a special feeling”
For Smith, who has spent the year balancing middle distance ambitions with making his case for the role of domestique on the New Zealand Olympic team next year in Paris, the victory on home soil meant a lot.
“That was incredible, to race here at home is a special feeling and to win here is just incredible. I owe the home crowd the win today, they are the ones that gave me the adrenaline to really attack and push all day.
“It’s incredible to get the win here again and I just love racing here, I can’t wait to race here again at the World Champs next year. 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.”
Having now tasted success here on more than one occasion, Smith is putting his head down and has stated his number one goal is to become World Champion in the town where he was raised.
“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.”
“Worlds coming to New Zealand next year is going to be incredible”
Having punched her ticket to the World Championships next year, Berry was very happy after her win and full of praise for the host venue, which she says will do a great job in December 2024.
“Feeling super stoked, it means a lot to come here to Taupō, 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. It means so much to round out the year with a win, I’ve had quite the year, so it means a lot.
“Worlds coming to New Zealand next year is going to be incredible, I can’t wait to be honest. 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.
“We’ve had a great year overseas, but nothing beats racing at home, so many cheers out there, just so much support, I just love it. It’s the best way to come and finish off the year. It means so much to come and have a good race here.”