Four members of Australia’s Commonwealth Games triathlon team will continue to put the finishing touches to their preparations at this weekend’s innovative Triathlon Australia Mixed Relay Invitational at Runaway Bay.
The Australians – Matt Hauser, Ashleigh Gentle, Charlotte McShane and Gillian Backhouse will be among nine Games athletes from Australia, Canada and Wales who will line up in the 18 teams.
Australia will be represented by 11 teams with Canada, Wales, USA, Canada/USA, Hong Kong, Japan and Korea providing a real international flavour to an event that’s the most recent addition to the Olympic program in Tokyo.
Each individual athlete will complete a 300m swim in the Sports Super Centre 50m Olympic pool; eight kilometres on the bike on the Criterium loop before a 1.6km track run.
Hauser, Gentle, McShane and Jake Birtwhistle (who is in Launceston preparing for the Games) made up the Australian team that won the ITU World Mixed Relay Championship in Hamburg last year.
The exciting addition to the triathlon program will feature for only the second time at this year’s Commonwealth Games (on April 7) after the Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee-led English team who won the inaugural gold from South Africa and Australia in Glasgow four years ago.
Hauser will be joined on the Australia 1 team by the very-much in-form Mooloolaba World Cup winner Emma Jeffcoat and South Australian duo, 23-year-old rising star Amber Pate and another relative newcomer through 70.3, two-time SA Triathlete of the Year Steve McKenna.
Australia 2 will feature Games girls Gentle and Backhouse, Rio Olympian and Glasgow bronze medallist Ryan Bailie and Gold Coast’s Dan Coleman in a team that certainly looks the goods on paper.
Australia 3 will see Wollongong based trio, McShane, recent Abu Dhabi podium finisher Natalie Van Coevorden and latest addition to Jamie Turner’s group in Declan Wilson as well as promising Queensland Under 23 Nicholas Free.
Kirsten Kasper, the 2017 World ranked number four, who was second to Jeffcoat in Mooloolaba, will spearhead the USA team of Kevin McDowell, Chelsea Burns and Morgan Pearson.
Canadian Commonwealth Games athlete Dominika Jamnicky and Emy Legault are the stand-outs in Team Canada while fellow Games representative Matthew Sharpe will join countrywoman Amelie Kretz and US pair Tony Smoragiewicz and Tamara Gorman in the Mixed USA/Canada team.
Two Games representatives Iestyn Harrett and Olivia Mathias will lead the Welsh team that also includes Zoe Thomas and Chris Silver.
Hauser, who was an impressive runner-up to world ranked number four, South African Richard Murray at the Mooloolaba World Cup said the Mixed Relay Invitational was perfect timing leading into the Games.
“We will build this into our taper so it couldn’t be better, said Hauser,
“We’ve got a good 18 teams coming in as well so it’s fantastic preparation for all the guys really and it will be good to see how they’re all shaping up for that Mixed Relay.
“It’s an event that will be at (the Olympics) in Tokyo as well; it’s such a fantastic and exciting event and the Aussies will have a point to prove after winning the World Championships last year and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Hauser’s coach, Gold Coast National Performance Centre coach Dan Atkins admitted the whole reason he believes his young charge got onto the Commonwealth Games team was their strategic plan 16 months out.
“I said to Matt, ‘you know what I think there is an opportunity there Matt to put your hand up … you have raced a lot of relays; you have a lot of experience there and if you keep going out and putting your best foot forward then it will be hard for the selectors not to look at you,’ said Atkins, who knows the inclusion of the Triathlon Australia Mixed Relay will be a perfect pathway for Australia’s younger athletes heading towards future Olympic, Commonwealth Games and World Championships.
“That came off and now it’s a matter of putting his conditioning and race conditioning in place by having those few little hit outs over last weekend and this weekend to hopefully be selected for the Com Games in the relay again.”
The two-day event (with two heats on Saturday 10 am and 11:45 and a Repechage at 8 am the B Final at 10 am and A final at 11.30 am on Sunday) at the Runaway Bay Sports Centre is being supported by the City of Gold Coast with a podium prize purse of $3,500.00 on offer.
Each athlete will compete a full super sprint triathlon of a 300m swim, 8km cycle and 1600m run before tagging their teammate to begin the next leg.
Two females and two males will make up a single team. The women will commence the first leg before tagging onto the first male. The second female will follow before the second male brings it home.
National Performance Director for Triathlon Australia Justin Drew said the concept of a Triathlon Mixed Relay Invitational would give Australian elite athletes a chance to hone their relay skills against each other and to provide up-and-coming development athletes the chance to race against some of the world’s best triathletes, including members of the reigning World Championship team.
“This will provide the athletes with an ideal opportunity to race in what is one of the most exciting events added to the triathlon events calendar,” said Drew, who also praised the support of the City of Gold Coast.
“Our athletes will get the chance to compete in a high-level race situation and hone their skills, which will help develop them for future World Championships, Commonwealth and Olympic Games.”
Australia’s London Olympian and Triathlon Australia Development Coach Brendan Sexton has been tasked with the responsibility of pulling together the event and is excited to get the Mixed Relay to the start line.
“All competition will be conducted within the Runaway Bay Sports Super Centre including the swim in the 50m pool, the cycle on the Luke Harrop High Performance Cycling circuit and run on the athletics track, which will be an ideal venue,” said Sexton.