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On a cold, rainy day in Beijing, Mikayla Nielsen of New Zealand shone through, securing the biggest win of her promising career thus far – the ITU Junior Triathlon World Championship.
Australian Ashlee Bailie finished up just two seconds behind Nielsen for the silver while an elated Hanna Philippin of Germany locked up the bronze with a strong final push on the run.
At chilly 14 degrees Celsius air temperatures, 54 junior women dove into the Shisanling reservoir for a one-lap 750m swim. Very early on the field began to spread out and at the swim finish, star swimmer Lucy Hall was first out of the water along with Anastasia Gorbunova of Russia. The pair was quickly joined on the bike course by Sophie Drews of Germany and Monika Orazem of Slovenia.
After Hall and Orazem tried to break away early, eventually the chase caught up to them and a group of 17 women came together at the end of the second of three laps. That group included Bailie, Nielsen, Canadian Joanna Brown and American Kelly Whitley, bronze medallist at last year’s Youth Olympic Games.
Canada’s Allison Hooper was the first into T2 with German Hanna Philippin and Karin Chibana of Japan just behind her, along with the rest of the lead group.
But early in the 5km run, Nielsen made her move and surged to the front. She opened up a slight gap on Bailie and Philippin. The rain continued but it didn’t stall Nielsen’s march to her first career World Championship title. Nielsen broke the tape at one hour, 3 minutes and 40 seconds to become the new Junior World Champion.
“I’m really pleased with the result. I’m quite new to the sport so it’s pretty overwhelming, especially being on the Olympic course, but it was always my goal to go for a medal and aim for the top,” said Nielsen after the race.
Bailie became the latest Australian junior to make the podium at the Junior World Championships after Ashleigh Gentle and Emma Jackson in recent years.
“I had no expectations coming into the race, I was just hoping for a good swim, ride and run and didn’t mind what the outcome was, just that I had a good race on the day,” said Bailie. “I would have loved gold, but silver I’m not complaining. Hopefully this will be the start of my under23 career. Big Olympic distance here I come!”
Philippin claimed her first world championship medal, crossing the line in third place.
“It’s my first world championships and I got a medal, so what can I say? It’s the best thing I could ever imagine,” she said. “It was so cold because of the rain, but it was a hard and good race. The hills were really tough and the other girls were all very good, so third place was the best I could do today and I’m really happy about it.”