Hannah Knighton is a keen triathlete who is up with the best in the world. The 18-year-old placed in the top five at the 2017 Junior Elite World Triathlon Championship; is ranked fifth in New Zealand and is currently gearing up for the Junior Oceania Championships later this month.

A member of the Pathway to Podium programme, Hannah has been awarded both a Hilary Scholarship and a Prime Ministers, Scholarship towards her BSc (Data Analytics) studies at the University of Waikato.

The talented teen juggles intensive training with her studies and is highly motivated , despite the challenges of time management.

INSPO Fitness Journal finds out more?

How did you get involved? I participated in my first Weetbix Tryathlon as an eight-year -old and was immediately hooked. I love training and competing in three different disciplines; swim, bike and run. I started swimming lessons as a three-year-old and have been a competitive swimmer for Hillcrest Swim Club. At primary school I played lots of sports including hockey, netball and tennis. When I started at Dio I picked up competitive road cycling and started to focus on triathlon. I’ve been coached by Chris Willett (Perimeter Coaching) for the past four years.

Describe your upcoming season? I’ve had a busy summer training in Papamoa with the Tauranga Tri Academy and have moved back to Waikato for Uni and to train with the High Performance Squad in Cambridge. I’ve raced in a number events over summer around the country and competed and won an Australian Junior Series Race in Adelaide. The highlight of the domestic season will be racing at the New Plymouth OTU Triathlon Oceania YOG Qualifier and Junior Oceania Championships later this month. My aim is to qualify again for the NZ Junior Elite Team to compete at the World Champs on the Gold Coast next September. I’d also like to gain more international experience.

What is your greatest successes to date? Without a doubt placing fifth at the 2017 Junior Elite World Champs in Rotterdam has been the highlight of my career. I really didn’t know how I would stack up against the other athletes, so to finish fifth was a total blast. I spent five weeks in Europe with the Tri NZ team training for the event which was a fantastic learning opportunity. It was also really cool to be a nominee for the 2018 Halberg Emerging Athlete Awards.

What motivates you? I love the variety of training that triathlon provides. No two days are the same, so training never gets boring. I also compete in open water swimming, road cycling and cross country so there’s always another event to look forward to.

What’s the greatest challenge? Time management is the biggest challenge I face. The training requirement for the three disciplines is pretty intense which means I need to have good time management skills as I am also starting university this year. I have had to learn how to prioritise and not sweat the small stuff.

The team around you? I have a fabulous team of coaches who support me. Chris Willett oversees my triathlon programme. Chris is based in Tauranga, so I spend most of the school holidays staying with my grandparents in Papamoa so I can train with him and the Triathlon Tauranga Youth academy. I’ve been lucky that Dave Spring and Julie Paterson from CycleTime in Hamilton coached the Waikato Dio Senior Cycling team. Matt Teokotai White at Hillcrest Swim Club has also coached me for five years. Their support and encouragement is fantastic.

What does your sport involve? I train for approximately 18-20 hours per week. I generally do 4-5 swim sessions, four run sessions, four bike sessions and two strength and conditioning sessions per week.

What aspect gives you the most pleasure from your sport? I LOVE competing. I also enjoy travelling and visiting new places and have friends throughout New Zealand as a result of the sports I have been involved in.

What are your long term goals? My long term goal is to win gold at the Olympic Games. I realise this is a long journey but by focusing on the process and making incremental improvements each day, I believe this is achievable.

Was there a time when you thought of giving up? Never, I love the sport. I really struggle when it’s time for a break. I love the structure that training provides and the feeling you get after a hard training session.

Name five things about you/your sport people would be surprised to know?
– My favourite snack is an apple with Pics peanut butter
– I love shoes. If the shoe fits, buy them in every colour.
– I have to finish my swim sets on a half or whole km
– I really want a border collie
– I really really hate being late

Your favourite local spots to train? Mount Maunganui. I love ocean swimming, there are some great hills out the back of Papamoa for cycle training and nothing beats running up the Mount early in the morning.

Where in the world you want to train/compete and why? I really enjoyed the climate in Spain but I struggled with Spanish time. Being a swimmer I’m used to getting started at 5.30am. As long as the sun’s shining, the water’s warm and the roads aren’t too busy, I’m happy.

What other sports are you involved in? I’m still a competitive swimmer although it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find time to compete in swim meets. I always compete in the NZ Ocean Water Swim Series and the NZ Open Water Swim champs. I’m a member of Hamilton City Cycling Club and compete in road cycling for both Waikato Dio and the club. Last year I was a member of the Waikato Dio Senior A Time Trial Team that won the U20 girls NZSS Team Time Trial at Palmerston North. I have also competed for Waikato Dio at athletics and cross country where I have won National Secondary School titles.

Who inspires you? Flora Duffy, the current World Champion, is my idol. I love the way she is so good at all three disciplines.

What is your advice to others wanting to have a go at the sport? Focus on the process and not the results. Train hard and have fun!