AUCKLAND, 14 OCTOBER 2015 (STUFF NZ) ---Triathlete Andrea Hewitt's total focus now shifts to Rio after being confirmed as New Zealand's first athlete to gain selection for next year's Olympics.
The New Zealand Olympic Committee confirmed Hewitt's position on Wednesday.
"My focus now is keeping everything right, my environment, my training, and my team," Hewitt said from her base in France.
"I am very proud to be the first New Zealander selected to represent our country at the Olympic Games in Rio. I want to use the time in the lead-up to prepare as best I can."
Hewitt achieved the NZOC selection criteria with three world triathlon series podium finishes over the last year in Edmonton, Auckland and Stockholm.
The Cantabrian backed up those results with a string of consistent performances, including a fourth-place finish at the Chicago grand final and the world championship silver medal, the fifth time in seven seasons that Hewitt has been ranked in the top three in the world. Hewitt now boasts 27 medals at world cup, world series and world championship events, including the bronze medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Games.
Rio will be the 33-year-old's third Olympics appearance after finishing eighth in Beijing in 2008 and sixth in London in 2012.
Her selection remains conditional on New Zealand receiving a quota spot for the Rio 2016 women's event, which is likely to be confirmed at the end of May.
"Andrea is the epitome of a hard-working and dedicated athlete. With her world series silver in 2015, Andrea has proved she is world-class and able to represent New Zealand to the highest level. We are proud to name her as the first athlete in what we believe will be an exceptional team," New Zealand Olympic Committee chief executive Kereyn Smith said.
Triathlon New Zealand high performance director Graeme Maw says the early selection will set Hewitt's Rio campaign up well.
"Andrea rose to the challenge of a high selection bar. The way she raced in the Chicago grand final shows she will be a contender next year, and she is getting faster all the time.
"She and her coach, Laurent Vidal, can now focus on a smooth preparation, much of which she's rehearsed this year."
The majority of selections for the New Zealand team to the Rio Olympic Games are expected to take place between March and July. Individual athletes need to show they can finish in the top 16 at the Olympics. Team sports must show they can advance beyond pool play at the games....PACNEWS