Daniel Whitburn loves putting his body through the wringer. The College Sport Auckland Sportsman of the Year is an International Triathlon champion and intends taking up Ironman in the near future.
Whitburn recalls the time when the appetite for such punishment was non-existent.
“When I was in year six, I got last in the school cross country. My parents weren’t impressed so they entered me into triathlon. It wasn’t until Year 10, I realised I actually enjoyed it. I discovered the further I go, the better I get.”
In 2015, Whitburn’s rapid improvement took him to the World Championships for the first time. Valuable experience was gained, but Whitburn was hungry for more international success from that point on.
A major victory was achieved in September at the International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championship in Rotterdam, Holland.
Whitburn won the U19 Standard Distance gold medal which features a 1500m swim, 40km cycle and 10km run. Whitburn vividly captures the action:
“It was a strange race. In the swim I was caught in the bunch and wasn’t pleased to be there so I veered out to the far right, which wasn’t a good place to be either. When I saw there only four guys in front me it wasn’t so bad when I left the water. On the bike leg I was certain I had passed three riders so I thought I was in second place. When I started the run Dad yelled to me I was in first place. I still have no idea what happened to the leading rider, but I put the foot on the gas and hung on.”
To add to the confusion the course was shared by competitors in an older race so the younger athletes were being passed as they progressed.
Even more remarkably Whitburn suffered a serious accident two weeks before he left for the Netherlands. He was T-boned at a road intersection while on a training ride. Whitburn remembers watching the motor vehicle driver, waiting for him to stop, then nothing - until he woke up in the back of an ambulance.
It takes more than a wayward car to keep Whitburn down.
In February he won the Auckland Schools championship and he has won the prestigious Erin Baker Trophy awarded to an athlete who completes the four Taupo triathlons annual events that includes the ‘across Lake Taupo’ swim.
With such a vast pedigree it should be little surprise that Whitburn was anointed the College Sport Auckland Sportsman of the Year last Sunday, but the 17-year old was genuinely touched by the accolade.
“It was a big honour and surprise to win. There are so many outstanding athletes. To be selected is a real thrill,” he says.
Whitburn is the fourth triathlete to win the major College Sport Auckland award. He joins fellow St Kent’s old boy Nathan Richmond (1996), Olympian Terenzo Bozzone (2002) and Daniel Hoy (2016) as recipients of the prize.
Three nights after winning College Sport Auckland's major prize, Whitburn won the Counties Manukau Junior Sportsman of the Year accolade.
Despite his success in triathlon, Whitburn desires a switch to ironman.
“I am heading to Dunedin to start a law and politics degree at Otago University next year so I will be having a sabbatical from competition. My goal is to do ironman’s, but I am too young at the moment to be a regular competitor. I will train and bide my time.” Whitburn concludes.
College Sport Media is dedicated to telling the story of successful young sportspeople in New Zealand