Gender-balanced team makes race history

Pictured: Simone Maier, Emily Wilson, Chris Forne and Marcel Hagener made history last week by being the first team of two women and two men to win the GODZone adventure race, held in Canterbury this year.| Photo: Alexandre Socci

With a balanced team, anything is possible. Team Perpetual Guardian set that benchmark last week by being the first equal-gendered team to nab the GODZone adventure race champion trophy.

Wanaka-based Simone Maier, Emily Wilson and Marcel Hagener along with Queenstown’s Chris Forne crossed the adventure race finish line in Akaroa last Thursday after putting forth a nearly non-stop effort for four days, eight hours and 30 minutes. With that time stamp came a sacrifice of sleep, only about one-point-five hours out of 24.

“It proves that anything is possible,” said Maier, who is also this year’s Coast to Coast female champion. “I think we have created a bit of sporting history with this result. It proves that a team does not necessarily need to consist of three men and one woman to win. I guess it needs a few more trials to see if there is more behind it in regards of performance when you race as an equal-gender team. We had here a one-off scenario, and it only proves that it is possible to win.”

The team chose to race the seven-day, 600km race on Canterbury terrain with two females and two males to highlight what can be accomplished with an equal combination.

“Nathan Fa'avae and Marcel [Maier’s partner] had talked about the idea of a fresh team constellation with two guys and girls racing together rather than the normal three guys to one girl ratio,” said Maier. “Chris was keen to try this out for a new challenge and we really [wanted] to make it work.”

She told the Wanaka Sun, “Historically there are more males than females in competitive sports, not only in adventure racing, and I assume that's why this ratio got made up in the first place. There are just more men than women racing. Though this is changing especially here in New Zealand.”

Maier said she was thrilled to be racing with Forne again after joining his 2016 GODZone team in Queenstown; Forne has won every single GODZone race except in 2016. “GODZone is always a big challenge and it was cool to race with this team,” said Forne. “It’s been an amazingly spectacular experience together out on that course with awesome views and Canterbury terrain.”

Maier noted that the team’s balance felt even this year. “...Maybe because of the equal gender ratio. But, then again, I have been racing a lot in the usual configurations and we had a good team energy too. It very much depends on the character of the athletes one is racing with. I think we all contributed something positive to the team and it showed in the result and the overall memory we have from the race,” she said.

“These three are super strong and I was a bit scared to start with because I didn't want to be a passenger,” said Wilson. “Simone and Marcel are like a German freight train on a bike that it’s just a matter of jumping on and hanging on. I felt I contributed more in the boat, and with the technical riding it was good because both Simone and I could ride all those sections.”

Maier attributed her team’s success to hard work, training, navigation and a consistent pace. “Trust is a big part of it, relying on your teammates to help you through the difficult times and move forward together,” she said. “Perpetual Guardian decided to support us within a very short time frame before race start. It was an amazing gesture, which we appreciate very much and we can not thank them enough for believing in us. They started the four-day work week and received worldwide attention for that. We tried to match this in racing time but missed out by half a day.”

Next year’s ninth GODZone will be held in Rotorua, which is the first North Island area to host the adventure race.


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