The race for places on Australia’s Olympic men’s triathlon team will continue to go right down the wire after a frenetic second round of the Dextro Energy ITU World Triathlon Championship Series in San Diego today.
Just one race remains inside the selection nomination period and that’s in Madrid on May 26 and 27 when final Olympic places for Federations and individual spots can be determined.
Triathlon Australia will make its final nominations to the Australian Olympic Committee on May 31.
In a spectacular race around Mission Beach today, it was Beijing Olympian Courtney Atkinson who was the best placed of the Australian contingent, with an encouraging 13th.
It puts his Olympic campaign back on track and helps Australia remain very much in the hunt as one of the leading top eight countries that can field a maximum three place based on the ITU Olympic rankings.
Atkinson’s performance will certainly play a large part in helping boost Australia’s chances of fielding those maximum three places, along with the powerful Canadian contingent and Portugal, who have dropped back.
Atkinson, who has been in San Diego preparing for the past month was always in contention for a top ten placing and finished just behind Canadian pair, Sydney 2000 Olympic gold medallist Simon Whitfield 11th and Kyle Jones, 12th.
In the race up front, there was no stopping Jonathan Brownlee who again stamped himself as one of the favourites for London 2012 (with brother and world champion Alistair) with a runaway win after dominating the swim, the bike and a tear away run.
Brownlee always seemed to be in control and he raced away from Switzerland’s Sven Reiderer and newly appointed ITU World Series leader, Richard Murray (RSA).
But as the day unfolded around the picturesque seaside area of Mission Beach, it was the races within the races that added so much excitement and intrigue, as athletes vied for Olympic selection.
The Australian contingent of Atkinson, the already qualified Brad Kahlefeldt, the legend Chris McCormack who is trying fort his first Olympic team, the man most likely in Brendan Sexton and the up-and-comer Aaron Royle were determined to make their presence felt.
With confirmation of a third Olympic berth up for grabs and a maximum of two more places for London yet to be determined there was always plenty at stake.
Atkinson was well placed in the top 10 out of the swim and stuck fast on the bike as over 50 riders came together before a solid 10km run.
With around 500 metres to run it was Atkinson who took off and ran past Canadian rival Whitfield, with both Australia and Canada vying for those vital rankings points.
â€œIt was certainly a much better performance from Courtney, he has re-adjusted his training and we saw a big improvement. He is now very much back on track,â€ said Australian head coach Shaun Stephens.
â€œIn hindsight he probably kicked a little too early, allowing Whitfield and the other Canadian the chance to kick back which they did, but it was still a good effort.â€
Australia’s other contenders Kahlefeldt finished up 26th, the ever present McCormack 30th, Royle 44th and Brendan Sexton, who was well back in the swim 56th.
But for the majority of the race the Australians were all well positioned, with Royle putting together his usual solid swim-bike; Kahlefeldt was in the top 10 at the start of the run while McCormack was challenging for the lead towards the end of the bike.
While it was a heartening return to the Series, after choosing not to race in Sydney three weeks ago â€“ there will be some anxious waiting for Atkinson, Sexton and McCormack with Olympic selection up for grabs.
|16||Simon De Cuyper||BEL||1:49:55||0:18:21||0:59:11||0:31:04|
|22||Jose Miguel Perez||ESP||1:50:09||0:17:57||0:59:34||0:31:15|
|27||Carlos Javier Quinchara Forero||COL||1:50:20||0:18:03||0:59:33||0:31:25|
|55||Gonzalo Raul Tellechea||ARG||1:53:53||0:18:41||1:02:14||0:31:42|
|61||Jan Van Berkel||NED||1:57:58||0:18:40||1:02:05||0:35:51|
|DNF||Felipe Van de Wyngard||CHI||0:00:00||0:18:46||0:00:00||0:00:00|