Ai Ueda strides to another brilliant World Cup gold in Nur-Sultan
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Japan’s Ai Ueda showed she is back with a bang after her bike accident in Abu Dhabi, laying down a scintillating run display on Saturday morning to win gold in the Nur-Sultan World Cup. The race format had to be changed to a duathlon due to water quality issues, and it was Ueda who summoned all her experience to adapt and thrive among a strong field, finishing ahead of Ireland’s Carolyn Hayes and Great Britain’s Kate Waugh.
“That last 10km I just pushed on hard,” said a delighted Ueda afterwards. “Now I am looking forward to the Asian Championships and continuing my return to full fitness. To come back to the podium here makes me so happy, and I hope to go on and build now towards that first WTS Podium soon.”
It was a fresh morning in the Kazakh capital as the women lined up for the opening 5km run, where Russia’s Diana Isakova flew out from the first corner, extending a healthy lead for much of that initial 5km before eventually being reeled in by the experience-laden pack by the time they reached T1.
Austria’s race number one Lisa Perterer lost a little time through that first transition, while Nina Eim (GER) and Jaz Hedgeland (AUS) were out in front onto the bikes for the start of the six-lap ride.
Another Australian, Tamsyn Moana-Veale was then pushing from the front before Anastasia Gorbunova (RUS) rolled the dice on lap two, but she was soon caught by the 22-strong pack. Edda Hannesdottir and Anne Holm were among those 30-seconds off the front riders and organising themselves to make up some ground after two laps.
Perterer and Waugh, the youngest athlete in the field, headed the front group after 4 laps while Hannesdottir was closing in hard just 14 seconds behind. With nobody pushing too hard among the leaders and the group’s sheer size causing slow-downs at the two u-turns, the entire field slowly came together until halfway through the penultimate lap it was indeed Hannesdottir taking her turn out front.
Out of T2 it was Ueda in the lead once again, however, and she and Ireland’s Carolyn Hayes had the rhythm to make a breakaway on the first lap of four, before the experienced Japanese star kicked on even harder to drop Hayes and forge out ahead on her own. Soon she had 10 seconds on the Irish youngster and 30 seconds on a trailing group of nine that included Perterer, Waugh, Nina Eim, Yuliya Yelistratova (UKR) and Moana-Veale along with ASICS World Triathlon Team’s Romina Biagioli of Argentina.
Everyone in that potent group had thoughts of bronze or catching Hayes if she faltered, but it was Waugh who had kept enough in the tank to pull away. As a delighted Ueda took the tape with the fastest run split of 34m38secs and a delighted Hayes the silver, the Brit dug in, easing away from the pack to earn a first World Cup podium of her young career. Russia’s Elena Danilova out-sprinted Nina Eim to fourth, Jaz Hedgeland (AUS) crossed in sixth and Lisa Perterer in seventh.
“I can’t really believe it,” said a beaming Carolyn Hayes after the race. “I was a little disappointed when I found out it was a duathlon but then I thought i’ve been running really well so maybe it could suit me. I’m just delighted for my coaches and everyone back home. At one point I thought I could actually take Ai but she obviously went out fast on that first run lap. This sport demands a lot and I cant believe this time last year I was working full time and now i’m on a World Cup podium in Kazakhstan, it’s great.”
“I just tried to stay with the pack at the end there,” said Waugh, “my coach said time and again don’t go off too fast but on that last 2.5km i still felt good. My running has been going really well but haven’t had the best start to the season. This will give me so much confidence I really wasn’t expecting it. I was actually focussing on the pain in my feet and trying not to get too distracted - it obviously worked!”
For the full women’s results click here