Sunderland endures sweltering contest
Nelson Mail Monday 26/02/2012
Nelson’s Nyle Sunderland had to battle her Australian opposition and the sweltering Hobart heat as Australia retained the Oceania Racewalking Trophy on Saturday. Sunderland was part of the open New Zealand team competing against the Australian under-23s in the 20km event, the Australians eventually prevailing by 24 points to 22 to retain the trophy for another two years. The hottest day in Hobart in 17 years had a significant bearing on performances,
with Saturday’s racing starting in 37 degrees Celsius. Each team required points from both
male and female competitors, including three finishers per team who also had to be among the top five to gain points. International rules stipulated that no drink station was available until the completion of a full lap, eliminating virtually half the field. Competing over a 2km loop, athletes weren’t able to access water until 4km. By 6km many top athletes, along with
two members of the New Zealand team, had dropped out due to the effects of heatstroke and dehydration.
The Kiwis still managed to pull out a gutsy performance, with Scott Nelson barely able to walk over the last 2km due to cramp in his groin, and Sunderland pulling out a strong recovery after nearly succumbing to the heat as she weaved back and forth across the track
at the 10km point. The Oceania event also coincided with the 20km Olympic trail walk, with Jarad and Clare Tallent winning the men’s and women’s races respectively. Of the 40 walkers competing in the event, only 21 finished. ‘‘I found this race to be a killer. I don’t
think I will ever again race in such extreme conditions,’’ said Sunderland, who eventually finished third in the Oceania Trophy event and eighth overall. ‘‘I was very disappointed with my time. I was a good five minutes off [my] pace. I knew I was on form for another PB.
‘‘But when you look at how many didn’t finish this race, you start to be extremely pleased that you hang on to cross the finish. ‘‘My coach informed me after the race that at the 10km point, he saw my distress and my weaving and was about to intervene and pull me from the race. It was only the fact that during the 11km I had increased my kilometre time by 40secs that he knew I had somehow come right, which was due to the sea breeze coming up and the sun setting. ‘‘From that point on in the race, I started clawing back some time and positions.’’