Through the early part of the New Zealand race season, which has had a very regional flavor as only Kiwis have been able to race at the different races, up-and-coming star Kyle Smith has been the man to beat thanks to wins at the Rotorua half, the Tauranga Triathlon and Challenge Wanaka. Smith even set course records at the latter two events.
Smith’s victories were even more impressive because, while setting those two course records, he also beat one of the sport’s premier full-distance competitors, Braden Currie. Currie’s list of triathlon accomplishments includes fifth and seventh-place finishes at the last two Ironman World Championship events, along with two Ironman Asia-Pacific titles and the win at Ironman New Zealand in 2017.
At Challenge Wanaka Smith used a stellar swim/ bike combination to hit T2 well ahead and was able to just hold off Currie for the title by 13 seconds. Taking on his first full-distance race today, Smith got part of that equation right again, leading Currie and the rest of the all-New Zealand pro field out of the water by just under a minute. On the bike though, Currie and Mike Phillips, the 2019 champion, managed to catch up to Smith by 90 km and the three would hit T2 together.
Currie wasted no time asserting his position as the man to beat on the run, though, surging onto the run course 20 seconds up on Phillips and 47 seconds ahead of Smith. Currie spent the rest of the run extending that lead. Last year he’d finished third behind Joe Skipper, who set a course record (7:54:18), and Phillips, but this year the Kiwi Ironman bragging rights went to Currie thanks to his 7:57:12 finish.
Phillips took second in 8:06:39, with Smith hanging tough through his first full-distance race to round out the podium in 8:08:54.