Ironman: Kiwi athletes descend on Tauranga for hotly-contested half-Ironman crown

The biggest elite field to compete at a New Zealand triathlon event has assembled in Tauranga, and sets up an intriguing battle for the title of half-Ironman champion. 

It was all smiles today, but come to Saturday, it's game on.

"Every time you line up on the start line you want to win and being NZ champ is extra motivation," Amelia Watkinson said.

Tauranga will host one of New Zealand's strongest triathlon fields, bringing the likes of Kiwi Watkinson home for the first time in four years.

"This race has always been a favourite, it's got great atmosphere, summer vibes, everyone's kind of celebrating summer," she said.

Her return sets up a thrilling battle against the NZ Ironman champion Hannah Berry. 

"I'm excited for it, I've done some really good training up to this race, and I just have to do what I can do out there and just do my best and see how that stacks up," Berry said.

In the men's field, defending champion Braden Currie is eyeing a fourth title. But he's expecting it to be a challenge with the calibre of athletes on offer.

"Depends how the race plays out, to be honest, could get tougher than I like or it could be quite a good race, smooth sailing, so we'll see," he said.

With such a strong field, the 33rd running of this iconic event is set to be one of the most competitive.

Watch the video above for the full story.