Road to glory

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Swim, bike and run – Queenstown teen has eye on Olympics.

Visit Queenstown’s Wakatipu High pool any weekday afternoon before winter and you’ll spot an Olympic hopeful.

Preparing for her next meet, teen triathlete Jaime Kruijer slices through the water for 90 minutes a day under swim squad coach Frank Wylie’s watchful eye.

On Friday nights you’ll see her cycling out to Arrowtown with a bunch of social bikers, and on weekends Jaime pounds the road near her Bob’s Cove home.

The bubbly 14-year-old has competed on the gruelling multisport circuit in the Wakatipu and further afield since the age of eight – now she’s gunning for Olympic glory in 2016.

Jaime will be too young for the 2012 Olympics in London but says her goal, “if I get really good, is to represent New Zealand” before going to university.

Ironically the 2016 Olympics has been the talk of Queenstown this week. Visiting International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge was in town being wooed by mayors from cities bidding to host the 2016 Olympic Games.

Jaime, for the record, would be happy competing at any of the cities in the running – Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro or Tokyo.

Judging by her achievements so far, the Year 10 Wakatipu High pupil is in with a shot. But it’s going to be a tough slog.

Frank Wylie reckons the talented kid – who loves triathlons but juggles them with karate, netball, squash and basketball – needs to narrow her focus to reach an elite level.

“To get to the top end of any one sport, at around 15 or 16 you have to become completely singleminded. That means sacrificing other sports or other commitments.”

Jaime is only 14, though, and just this year has won her divisions in the Secondary Schools Southland/Otago Triathlon, Paradise Triathlon and Wanaka Junior Challenge. She also placed fourth in the South Island secondary schools champs and was first girl home in Wakatipu High’s triathlon last Thursday.

Wrapping up the season, she won the under-15 girls division at the Southland Secondary Schools Triathlon in Winton on Monday.

Each summer Jaime competes in more than 10 events and started racing against adults last year.

Proud mum Cyndi, who once represented Waitaki Girls’ High in running, drives her only child to meets, prepares her food and drink, and cheers from the sideline.

The national Secondary Schools Triathlon champs in the North Island 12 months ago were a reality check for all-conquering Jaime and her support crew.

She came in 16th among 30-plus under-14 competitors.

“It opened our eyes up to how much better they are up there – they have all of the coaches and all of the training as well, we kind of lack that,” Cyndi says.

“Frank’s been really good but she doesn’t have a mentor or someone to push her along with biking and running.”

Wylie says she may have to relocate to a larger centre to find a professional coach and peers of her age to compete against.

Cyndi, who has lived in Queenstown for 16 years with husband Marlon, agrees Jaime’s isolated location may complicate her bid for the top.

Then there’s the money – travelling and equipment expenses add up.

Both parents want to help their daughter reach her Olympic dream and they remain her biggest supporters. But they aren’t sure if she will “be able to continue doing what she’s doing”, Cyndi says.

Jaime says she doesn’t tire of competing despite having done so for almost half her life.

“My first triathlon was the Weetbix Tryathlon when I was eight. I found that really fun and decided I wanted to do some more.”

Cyndi remembers how pocket-rocket Jaime, racing in a team, finished her bike leg – then got bored so did the run section as well.

She reckons Jaime, whose first individual race was an Iron Kids Triathlon at age nine, is a natural athlete. “When she was little you couldn’t stop her.

“She just had to be outside, riding her bike up and down our [Bob’s Cove] section, or I’d go for a walk and she’d get out of the pram and be running down the track.”

Now, the young sportswoman is focused on the next stop in her path to the top – the under-16 competition at the 2010 nationals.

It’s going to be an eventful journey but she’s off to a racing start.