By Merryn Sherwood on 20/12/11 at 9:45 am
Coming into the 2011 series Grand Final in Beijing it had been a case of so close, but so far, for Andrea Hewitt.
A gutsy third in Sydney, fourth in Madrid, 11th in Kitzbühel, fourth in Hamburg, sixth in London and then another third in Lausanne – she had been the epitome of consistency so far. Coming into the season finale, she was just one point behind Paula Findlay in fourth spot, a podium place was well within reach. It was almost the exact same position she was in 12 months before, at the 2010 Budapest Grand Final. Except that back there, she missed out on a medal with a 22nd place finish.
ALL ABOUT ANDREA
Dextro Energy Triathlon Series Wins: 3 (2 Silver, 4 Bronze)
Where she calls home: Christchurch, New Zealand
You can follow Andrea on Twitter, @andreahewitt
But instead of being intimidated, Hewitt used that memory to her advantage. She rode with the lead bike group, and then her and Helen Jenkins broke away early on in the run, before Hewitt sprinted away in the final few metres. While Jenkins still claimed the overall ITU World Championship, that win ensured that Hewitt stole the show in Beijing and finished with overall ITU World Championship silver. She said afterwards, she was determined not to let this one slip with last year’s finish fresh in her mind.
“From the start of the run, I led the first kilometre and then as soon as Helen passed me I just hung on to her and I knew I had a little bit more energy for the last part, so I went for it soon as I came into the stadium,” Hewitt said. “Last year I was so close to getting on the podium for the world champs series, so this year coming second, it just makes up for everything.”
But if Hewitt’s Beijing win was brilliant, and it was, what she did afterwards was simply remarkable. The pint-sized Kiwi backed-up just 10 days later to win in 38-degree conditions in Yokohama, with enough time to stop and high-five fans all the way down the finishing chute and still beat Emma Moffatt by 13 seconds.
Her season didn’t finish there though, as she headed home for the 2011 ITU Auckland World Cup. The preview for next year’s World Triathlon Series Grand Final was not only at home, but extremely hilly course on each of the eight bike laps meant the pressure was really on. Even though she said on the bike leg afterwards, “It just kept going on and on…those hills just take everything out of the legs,” Hewitt went on to her most convincing win yet, with a margin of almost a minute separating her and silver medallist Tomoko Sakimoto.
In the small sporting nation of New Zealand, that has always punched above its sporting weight, Hewitt’s achievements have usually made back-page news. But in the leadup to and after Auckland, Hewitt has been in the spotlight even more than usual. And that spotlight has allowed the softly-spoken 29 year old to actually speak out loud her aim for next year.
“The last couple of races have really proven my ability – to myself. Especially in Yokohama, just running away and being alone out in front, that was pretty amazing,” she told New Zealand press just before Auckland. “I know I can do it. I know I can win Olympic gold.”
There is no denying that after that stellar finish to season 2011, there aren’t many that doubt she can.