Irish Olympic contender Aileen Morrison advanced her London 2012 campaign significantly on Sunday.
Morrison won a silver medal in the ITU (International Triathlon Union) World Cup Triathlon in Ishigaki, Japan. The result gives Morrison valuable qualification points toward her dream of representing Ireland in Hyde Park next August. And if she gets there it will fulfil a lifelong ambition.
The full-time professional triathlete from Derry continues to deliver great international performances, adding this second place to a rapidly expanding resume which includes a Bronze medal in the Hamburg World Championship Series event in 2010, and a Gold Medal in the Antalya European Triathlon Union Cup race in Turkey two weeks ago.
The Ishigaki event was won by Chile’s Barbara Riveros Diaz, and Japan’s Kiyomi Niwata was third.
The race started in almost perfect conditions, 28 degrees celsius in the air and 23 in the water, and the attacks started right from the swim.
Kerry Lang (GBR), Line Jensen (DEN), Radka Vodickova (CZE) and Eri Kawashima (JPN) broke away in the water and took their lead into the bike. Coming into fourth lap, the group has a sizeable 30-second gap. But the chase that included Riveros Diaz, Morrison, Mariko Adachi (JPN) and Kirsten Sweetland (CAN) turned on the pace and within a lap had caught them. A total of 30 athletes then hit transition together.
But that mass run group didn’t last for long as Riveros Diaz made her move in the first lap, from there her incredibly efficient strides took her lead further on each hilly lap heading into the finish. A chase group that included Morrison, Niwata, Erin Densham (AUS) and Marina Damlaimcourt (ESP) tried to catch her but to no avail. “My victory is for everyone, giving love and happiness,” Riveros Diaz said.
“I was a little tired from the last race, but have to be smart and manage myself to get to the finish line. The atmosphere was amazing. Even if I wasn’t Japanese, they were cheering me.”
Morrison did pull away from the bunch in the final lap, to add another world cup podium to her quickly growing ITU resume, and the 28 years old Derry woman said she couldn’t have been happier.
“Absolutely fantastic and delighted to stand on the podium,” she said. “A lovely place to do a race, in Ishigaki. Fantastic people, fantastic course. It was really hard, yet loved it and am delighted I finished second.”
In the three years from 2008 to 2010, Morrison took part in 22 ITU events and achieved 11 top ten positions. In April 2011, Morrison opened her new season with two medals: gold at Antalya and now the silver at Ishigaki.
Fellow professional triathletes from the Triathlon Ireland Team also racing in Ishigaki were Gavin Noble who placed 16th, Emma Davis 32nd and Ben Shaw 48th. All three will also pick up coveted Olympic qualifying points for their performances.
The Ishigaki ITU Triathlon World Cup is the longest running ITU World Cup event, having been held every year since 1996. The island, approximately 2,000km southwest of Tokyo, has become a triathlon mecca in Japan. Before the women’s race, over 1,600 triathletes from all over the region participated in the age-group races.
Despite her busy schedule Aileen finds time to keep her followers entertained on her website and blogs : www.aileenmorrison.com
So what are her future dreams?
“I’m a Derry girl living the dream in Lisburn as a full-time triathlete. It is my aim to qualify and compete in the 2012 Olympic Games in London representing Ireland. Over the past few years I have surprised myself and the Triathlon world with my rise upon the International scene and I hope to keep going!”