New Zealand’s McCullough surprises himself to take triathlon gold
Dylan McCullough of New Zealand stormed to victory in the men’s triathlon at the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018 on Monday 8 October, topping the podium on a warm morning at the Parque Verde.
The Kiwi athlete clocked a time of 53 minutes 27 seconds to win by 12 seconds from Portugal’s Alexandre Montez, with Alesso Crociani of Italy a further six seconds back in third.
No one was more surprised to see him beat the field than McCullough himself, who put his victory down to some intensive preparation and his mental strength. “It’s a huge shock,” said the New Zealander, who could barely stop laughing in disbelief at his achievement. “When I set off I didn’t think I was going to come first. I thought I’d do OK but not win the thing."
“I’ve worked hard and trained a lot, and finishing school meant that I could focus and finish my training off properly,” added McCullough. “I didn’t look back the whole run and it was a very special feeling crossing the finish line in first place. I tried to keep calm, but obviously it’s such a big race and I was quite nervous coming into it but I just knew I had to stick to the plan. I stuck to that and executed everything perfectly and then I won.”
Crociani tried to take advantage of McCullough’s strength on the bicycle and, after coming out of the water at the same time as his Kiwi rival, the Italian stayed in his slipstream for the entire second section. “I knew he is the best of the world on the bike,” Crociani said. “I was lucky he was next to me out of the water, so I just wanted to stay with him for the whole bike segment.”
The Italian athlete gave it all in his bid to take silver only to see Montez overtake him on the last lap of the run.
Taking eighth place in the men’s event was Chile’s Cristóbal Beza Muñoz, who shared an emotional hug with his coach after the event. “I’ve got a very close relationship with my coach, who’s been preparing me for this for the last four years,” explained the young Chilean after the race. “We trained every day: on bank holidays, and at Christmas, for many hours every day. The bond between us is very strong. “I had to give up a few things and miss school and going out with my friends, but it was worth it to come and experience Buenos Aires 2018.”
The last athlete across the line was Aruba’s Giannon Lisandro Eights, who finished more than nine minutes behind gold medallist McCullough. The 16-year-old showed a never-say-die attitude, however, and stuck to his task.
“I have no training partners in Aruba, as the sport is pretty new,” he said. “There’s no one at my age there who can train with me – I outclass the ones who are in my age group. So I trained alone and during tough times if I didn't want to give up, I just had to think that in the future I could make it to the Olympics and stay positive.”
Following his gutsy showing in the Argentinian capital, Eights is intent on returning to the Olympic stage: “This experience brings home the fact that I have to train more. My long-term goal now is to qualify for Paris 2024 or Los Angeles 2028.”