One of Australia’s most celebrated male triathletes of the last 15 years, Courtney Atkinson, is the first to admit that he’s a little rusty when it comes to racing. But he is determined to turn his training form into winning race form when he lines up in the OUT Oceania Championships in Devonport, Tasmania on Saturday.
The Olympic Distance event will be the first meaningful triathlon of the season with a dedicated Olympic place up for grabs for Oceania federations. And in a nutshell â€“ that translates into Australia v New Zealand out to lock in places for the London Olympics as well as the all-important rankings points in what is certain to be one of the most exciting Trans Tasman clashes in recent times.
â€œWhen it comes to racing I race to win and if that’s the case then everything else will take care of itself,â€ said Atkinson, who at 32, has â€œbeen there done thatâ€ in the world of triathlon and has his sights set on a second Olympics, after making his debut in Beijing.
â€œAs far as my training is concerned then it’s the best it’s been, it world class but as far as my racing is concerned then I still have a way to go, but I’ve raced some smaller races over the last three weekends and I’m getting there. I will be looking to do a good job in Devonport.
â€œAfter last year I have gone back to what I do best. I am back training alongside my old training partner in (Australian marathon runner) Michael Shelley and I’m actually training alongside swim coach Colin Braund who coaches a host of my competitors and Olympic open water swimmer Ky Hurst.
â€œPeople say I need a coach but I have surrounded my self with some great trainers and for the first time in a long time I am 100 percent and sickness and injury free.
â€œSo I am going into Devonport focusing on myself; I’m not thinking about Olympic selection spots, when you start thinking like that then you can lose focus.
â€œI am racing for myself and I’m going out to win and if I can do that then it’s good for the Federation (Triathlon Australia) and it’s good for everyone.
â€œAnd when it comes to the Olympics I just don’t want to go and make up the numbers; I want to go there and be competitive.
â€œSure when it comes to the men’s race all the talk has been about the Brownlees (Alistair and Jonathan) but this is an Olympic year and anything can happen.
â€œI want to go to London knowing I am capable of winning a medal and history has shown that if you are in the pack of 15 or 20 guys off the bike then you’re a chance.
â€œAt the moment I know what I have to do to be competitive with them (the Brownlees) and I know I can get back to the kind of form that I have showed in the past when I have run head-to-head with the Brownlees.
â€œI believe I can get back to that level when I was mixing it with them and Javier Gomez.â€
And Atkinson has fond memories of Devonport Surf Life Saving Club when he was a 10-year-old nipper in the Queensland State Team at the National Inter-State Championships.
â€œI was a young board paddler back then with my sights set on being an Ironman and that was my first trip away so I’m looking forward to coming back again and swimming at the same venue,â€ said Atkinson.
â€œBut I’m going to have a wetsuit on this time.â€
Atkinson will spearhead a large group of Australians who will mix it with the New Zealanders, some who are his life long friends.
â€œI guess it’s a different story when the gun goes,â€ said Atkinson.
OTO OCEANIA TRIATHLON CHAMPIONSHIPS
WHERE: The Devonport City Council’s recent multi-million dollar foreshore makeover will be a perfect location for this year’s Oceania Championships. The 2012 event will be conducted at a brand new venue in Devonport at the Devonport Surf Life Saving Club and Mersey Bluff foreshore which will allow for a natural amphitheatre for athletes and spectators alike.
WHAT: Â Some of the biggest names in Australian and New Zealand triathlon will line up in the 2012 OTU Oceania Championships which will include multi-faceted races for Elites, Under 23s, Juniors and Age Groupers.
THE STAKES: At the top of the list will be all-important London Olympic positions which are up for grabs for Oceania Federations as well as all-important ITU and Olympic rankings points; ITU World Championship qualification for Age Groupers; the Elite, Under 23s, Age Group Oceania Championships; the final race in the Australian Junior Series as well as the exciting Trans Tasman Teams Challenge.
WHAT IT MEANS: With only eight countries allowed the maximum of three athletes per gender on the London start line, the battle to secure the one automatic spot granted to Oceania countries will be fiercely contested. So serious are the Kiwis that they have also designated the Oceania Championships as their National Championships â€“ an event normally hosted in Wellington.
FLYING THE MEN’S FLAG: Flying the Australian men’s flag will be Beijing Olympian Courtney Atkinson, former ITU World Champion-cum-Ironman king Chris McCormack, emerging Victorian World Cup-winner Brendan Sexton and a host of emerging stars including, Jamie Huggett, Drew Box, Aaron Royle, James Seear and Ryan Fisher.
THE KIWIS: For the Kiwis, two-time Olympic medallist Bevan Docherty, two-time NZ Commonwealth Games representative and former world aquathlonÂ champion Kris Gemmell, the under 23 Oceania champion Ryan Sissons and TonyÂ Dodds, who was second across the line in the Australian Sprint Championship in Geelong last month, will lead the New Zealand men.
THE WOMEN: While the women’s field may not have the numbers, it has attracted a select field with Australia’s elite contingent led by Beijing Olympian Erin Densham, the brilliant Emma Jackson along with World Cup winner Ashleigh Gentle.
PAST EVENTS: Devonport last hosted the Oceania Championships back in 2004 when Beijing Olympian Brad Kahlefeldt outsprinted Sydney Olympian Miles Stewart to win the men’s race. British athlete Liz Blatchford won the women’s race from Barb Lindquist (USA) and Nicole Hackett.Â Interestingly, in that year Triathlon New Zealand used the Devonport race as it final selection race for the Athens Olympic Games. Nathan Richmond finished fourth overall and beat a fast finishing Kris Gemmell to secure the third and final New Zealand Olympic spot for Athens. In the women’s race Samantha Warriner held out Shanelle Barrett by ten seconds to secure her Athens spot on the New Zealand Olympic team. Â The 2004 race also included Athens Gold medallist Hamish Carter (NZL), Ironman athletes Craig Alexander and Chris McCormack, while the women’s field in 2004 included 2008 Beijing Olympians Erin Densham and Emma Moffatt along with Ironman athletes Mirinda Carfrae and Sam McGlone (CAN).
SATURDAY START TIMES (Mersey Bluff Beach):
7-7:30am – AGE GROUP (Olympic Distance)
10.15am â€“ ITU JUNIOR WOMEN
11.30am â€“ ITU JUNIOR MEN
1pm â€“ ELITE WOMEN AND UNDER 23S
3.30pm â€“ ELITE MEN AND UNDSER 23S
Issued on behalf of Triathlon Australia