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Triathletes qualify for world championship in New Zealand

Neil King, left, and Lynn Nelson plan to compete next summer in the New Zealand world class triathlon. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

Age categorizes Neil King and Lynn Nelson as senior citizens.

Action classifies King, 61, and Nelson, 70, as world class athletes.

The spirited competitors will likely be heading to New Zealand next October, having qualified to compete in the 2012 world championship triathlon.

King earned 11th ranking in his 60-64 age group and Nelson, 17th in the 70-74 category. Both are considered "elite" in their age groups, winning nearly all races until competing at the national level.

Both competed in qualifying national races in Burlington, Vt. in August. Nelson qualified in Minnesota's Chisago Lakes triathlon, King in the Buffalo event.

The 2012 race that begins and ends in Auckland, sends competitors into the water for a 1.1 kilometer swim, off on a 40K bike race and a 10K run.

Nelson, a summer resident on Ham Lake, competed in his first triathlon in 2005. "My son Matt talked me into it," he said.

As a non-swimmer, the aquatic portion was "a big concern," prior to his first race. Now he's "comfortable in the water. Not fast, but comfortable."

Nelson averages four triathlons a year. Training includes time spent on the tennis court four times a week year-round (wintering in Arizona). But now he's chucking the racquet to concentrate on training for the triathlon.

King, a certified triathlon coach - Nelson his protégé - will train about 12 hours a week, four hours in each discipline, for the New Zealand adventure.

The Lake Belle Taine resident's initiation in the sport was 15 years ago when the marathon runner joined friends at Lake Cormorant near Detroit Lakes for a triathlon.

The next summer, after three more swimming-biking-running events, King decided it was "my thing. I began getting serious."

At 56, he qualified for the Ironman in Hawaii, which is comprised of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run. He finished "dead middle" in his age group.

The Ironman world-class championship attracts the crème de la crème. King recalls at mile 80 a 65-year-old woman pedaling on by him.

The cross-country skiing aficionado appreciates triathlons as "an all body sport."

After an event in Phoenix, King will have logged 100 triathlon events. Both compete in the Tri Minnesota Series.

This will be a premier journey to New Zealand for both, barring injury or family matters precluding the trip. King's wife Elaine, who also competes in triathlons, plans to cross the Pacific as does Nelson's wife, Kathleen.

"She's excited to go," Nelson said. "She's a big fan, my best fan."