Slovakia's Richard Varga continued his excellent 2012 form to claim his second ITU Aquathlon world title, while New Zealand's Nicky Samuels delighted home crowds with her first Aquathlon victory on the opening day of ITU World Championship events in Auckland on Wednesday.
Varga's win added another highlight to what is already a breakthrough year, that included making his Olympic debut and his first top-10 ITU World Triathlon Series result in Stockholm, followed closely with a 12th place in Yokohama. He was also the Brownlee brother’s training partner and unofficial swim domestique at the Olympic Games.
In Auckland, Varga led from start to finish over the 1km swim and 5km run, using his stellar swim leg to gain a huge advantage out of T1. He extended that further over the run to finish 1 minute and 1 second ahead of 2011 Aquathlon world champion Richard Stannard. Serbia's Ognjen Stojanovic finished five seconds ahead of Great Britain's Phil Wolfe to claim bronze, rounding out the podium.
Varga said it was another great moment in what has already been a great year.
"I never expected this year would be so good before the start of the season, so I am very happy that every race has been getting better and better," Varga said. "A title is always a really really amazing thing, so I'm very happy to be world champion again this year. Last year in Beijing I was sick and I couldn't race, so I'm happy I can race here."
Ukraine's Ivan Ivanov stormed home in the men's U23 category to claim gold, ahead of New Zealand's Harrison Dean and Denmark's Andreas Schilling. Luxembourg's Bob Haller claimed the junior men's gold medal, in an all-European podium with Norway's Jørgen Gundersen and Hungary's David Pap.
In the women's race, Samuels was buoyed by an enthusiastic home crowd as she pulled away on the 5km run to claim her first ITU world title. It was also her second ITU win in a row, after her World Cup win in Tongyeong last month.
"I didn't know how this race would go and if I could win it, but I thought it's in New Zealand so why not go out there and give it a go," Samuels said. "It's fabulous, we're at home and it's surreal really that we have this world series event in this big city and everything is shut down for it. It's so well run and with all the restaurants and people, they are all cheering for Kiwis because that's all they know and it was a great experience to be out there."