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Nicola Spirig wins Olympic Triathlon Gold by the Narrowest of Margins

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The women’s Olympic triathlon competition was met with grey skies, wetsuit temperature water, and a slick course that challenged athletes every step of the way. While the past three Olympic Games have seen surprise winners, London seemed to break the spell when three favorites made the podium.

In a nailbiting all-out sprint to the finish, Switzerland’s Nicola Spirig edged out Sweden’s Lisa Norden in triathlon’s first ever photo finish for Olympic gold. Australia’s Erin Densham took third, coming in just two seconds later at 1:59.50.

Three very happy women - Credit: Triathlon.org | Delly Carr / ITU

“I had a feeling but I wasn’t really sure so I needed an official to tell me, and it took a few minutes and those minutes were really hard,” Spirig said. “I would have been happy to win a medal but of course it’s a big difference if you win gold or silver, so it’s just amazing, I’m a bit speechless.”

However, their medals were not always secure, given they all had more than a minute deficit exiting the 1.5km in The Serpentine. Dressed in wetsuits for the 19.6-degree water, five women immediately churned for the lead after the start of the swim, headed by the oldest Olympian on the course, 37-year old Laura Bennett (USA).

Rookie Olympian Lucy Hall (GBR) took over on the turn, leaving Claudia Rivas (MEX) to swim between them. Line Jensen (DEN) swam on their feet, creating a small gap, while the pack of nearly 50 women swam seconds back.

Just over midway through the swim, the amphibious Hall, Jensen, and Pamela Oliveira (BRA) swam single file to move a line of four more women into a sizeable lead over the chase pack. The remainder of the top seven included Rivas, Bennett, Jessica Harrison (FRA), and Mariko Adachi (JPN), while the rest trailed at a sizeable distance.

Hall left the lake first, followed by Jensen and Adachi. Harrison emerged in seventh 22 seconds later. With a minute advantage, the group quickly came together to carry their small pack onto the bike course. Behind them, the giant group scrambled to get out of their wetsuits and onto their bikes, led by two-time Olympian Norden.

Erin pushed the pace on the run all day - Credit: Triathlon.org | Delly Carr / ITU

Shortly into the first lap, Oliveira slid out on her bike while maneuvering around a corner, causing her to fall out of second place. Bennett managed to miss the crash, as did the other six leading women. Oliveira slowed to join the chase pack, which had already made up considerable space in the first lap. Unfortunately, the first lap was plagued by crashes on a course which was showered with rain late in the night. Most notably amongst those who hit the pavement was Emma Moffatt (AUS). The Beijing bronze medallist was forced to withdraw from the race after the crash, which also involved Italy’s Annamaria Mazzetti.

By the end of the first lap, Adachi rode through the transition area with the fastest swimmers, but not without heat from the chase group. Spain’s Ainhoa Murua, who swam in the pack of athletes, came charging through the first lap having made up 33 seconds.

With Murua at the top, the chase pack joined the lead to create a group of 22 women. Included in that group were Helen Jenkins (GBR), Lisa Norden (SWE), Nicola Spirig (SUI), Anja Dittmer (GER), Erin Densham (AUS), Andrea Hewitt (NZL), Sarah Groff (USA) and Emma Jackson (AUS).

“I didn’t feel good in the swim and obviously I realised coming out of the water I was in a group with the main players, so that was a relief,” Densham said. “And then on the bike it was obviously about staying out of trouble, a couple of girls came down on the first lap and I got caught behind it but I managed to stay upright.”

After the third lap, the lead group had gained an advantage of nearly a minute and a half. Barbara Riveros Diaz (CHI) worked at the head of the chase group to pull up the group of 26 women. France’s Carole Peon and Emmie Charayron, as well as Anne Haug (GER) rode with Riveros Diaz.

However the powerful lead pack, which included a deep field of favorites, proved to be too fast, advancing another 16 seconds to increase their lead to 1 minute, 48 seconds. On the fourth lap, Svenja Bazlen (GER) led the group of 22, which spanned across just three seconds.

The group worked efficiently, signalling to one another for new lead changes throughout the narrow and twisting seven-lap course. With Spirig at the helm on the fifth lap, the ladies grinded ahead another 20 seconds for a 2 minute, 8 second advantage.

While Spirig often rode in the front of the peloton, other favourites like Hewitt, Densham, and Norden opted to ride in the middle, along with Murua, conserving energy to battle on the run. Hall also often led the group, as she did on the sixth lap, with ease and control in an attempt to thwart the competition from teammate Jenkins. Armed with more than a two-minute lead, the ladies backed off their pedals slightly, gearing up to transition into the four-lap 10km run.

Following the transition, that saw veteran German Anja Dittmer leave for the run course first, Great Britain’s Jenkins wasted no time moving herself to the front of the pack in front of a deafening crowd. With Olympic dreams on the line, a group of ten women started to break away from 22-person pack midway through the first lap of the run.

The group was led by Densham, Jenkins, Spirig, Norden and Murua, while Groff, Hewitt, Jackson, Harrison, Bennett, and Dittmer ran on their heels. The first nine competitors ran through the first lap within three seconds of each other, while Bennett sat seven seconds back to Dittmer’s ten. Jenkins pushed the pace on the second lap, dropping Harrison, Bennett and Dittmer, and leaving Aussie Jackson trailing to create a new lead group of seven women midway through the second lap of the run.

Groff and Murua also started to fall off late in the second lap, while Densham, Jenkins, Spirig, Norden, and Hewitt forged ahead. Shortly into the third lap on a winding technical portion of the run, a group of four broke away to leave Hewitt. Jenkins looked next to be picked off, as she found trouble staying with the speed.

Groff worked to keep the lead pack in her sight, and overtook Hewitt to move into fifth place. With one lap to go, she was just two seconds down, and quickly joined leaders Densham, Spirig, Jenkins, and Norden on the final lap. Densham stayed at the top, repeatedly attempting to peel herself away. But her every step was answered by the women, especially Groff who had moved into second place. Jenkins, meanwhile, began falling behind.

A persistent game of cat and mouse, the only constant remained Densham at the top. Then on the final straight away, Spirig moved into first and began hammering ahead of Densham. Norden followed suit, and the two sprinted over the finish line to take down the finish line tape at nearly the same time. Spirig was crowned the winner with time of 1:59:48, while Norden, for the second time in her life, was named second in a photo finish.

In the end there was only a toe in it - Credit: Triathlon.org | Delly Carr / ITU

“I did not have a clue, it was only in the last couple of strides that I came close to her and I did kind of think I had silver,” Norden said. “But there is just this little hope and you wait for the screen to come up. I saw I had the silver and I’m pretty pleased with that, put it that way.”

The finish was so close, officials had to review the two finish line cameras to determine the winner. Race referee Bela Varga determined Spirig had won by an estimated 15cm margin when her torso hit the tape first.

“I lost a sprint in Madrid some years ago to Andrea Hewitt by just 0.02 seconds and this was another one, I always just seem to be on the wrong side of these decimals, but hey I got a silver medal and I’m pretty stoked with that,” Norden said.

Densham secured bronze in 1:59.50 to give Australia its fifth triathlon medal in the Olympic history of the sport.

Groff, competing in her first Olympic Games, crossed over in fourth at 2:00.00. Cheered on by a roaring crowd, Jenkins finished in fifth at 2:00.19. Hewitt improved her Olympic showing by two places for a sixth-place finish. Murua finished in seventh for a dramatic improvement from her previous two Olympic, followed by Emma Jackson in eighth. Harrison and Kate McIlroy (NZL) rounded out the top ten in night and tenth, respectively.

Jackson’s top ten finish was a great result on the day with the pace of the eventual top 3 too fast. She had performed on this course before and didn’t disappoint on race day. Jackson stayed at the back of the main pack for most of the bike leg and started the run solidly but couldn’t match the speed of the lead women.

The men’s triathlon competition gets underway Tuesday 7 August at 11:30am local time. Check listing with your national Olympic broadcast company for broadcast times near you. While live timing and streaming are not available, tune in to triathlon.org/live and on Twitter for live text updates, via @ITUonline and @triathlonlive.

 

Pos Athlete Country Time Swim Bike Run
1 Nicola Spirig SUI 1:59:48 0:19:23 1:05:33 0:33:41
2 Lisa Norden SWE 1:59:48 0:19:17 1:05:33 0:33:42
3 Erin Densham AUS 1:59:50 0:19:24 1:05:33 0:33:42
4 Sarah Groff USA 2:00:00 0:19:20 1:05:40 0:33:52
5 Helen Jenkins GBR 2:00:19 0:19:19 1:05:35 0:34:10
6 Andrea Hewitt NZL 2:00:36 0:19:28 1:05:26 0:34:29
7 Ainhoa Murua ESP 2:00:56 0:19:21 1:05:37 0:34:47
8 Emma Jackson AUS 2:01:16 0:19:24 1:05:32 0:35:06
9 Jessica Harrison FRA 2:01:22 0:18:39 1:06:16 0:35:13
10 Kate McIlroy NZL 2:01:28 0:19:31 1:05:26 0:35:14
11 Anne Haug GER 2:01:35 0:19:44 1:06:59 0:33:42
12 Anja Dittmer GER 2:01:38 0:19:24 1:05:27 0:35:32
13 Irina Abysova RUS 2:01:52 0:19:20 1:05:34 0:35:41
14 Mariko Adachi JPN 2:02:04 0:18:25 1:06:29 0:35:50
15 Vendula Frintova CZE 2:02:08 0:19:30 1:05:27 0:35:57
16 Barbara Riveros Diaz CHI 2:02:15 0:19:44 1:07:03 0:34:14
17 Laura Bennett USA 2:02:17 0:18:36 1:06:22 0:36:10
18 Emmie Charayron FRA 2:02:26 0:19:48 1:06:58 0:34:26
19 Gillian Sanders RSA 2:02:28 0:19:29 1:05:31 0:36:17
20 Radka Vodickova CZE 2:02:34 0:19:18 1:05:40 0:36:21
21 Claudia Rivas MEX 2:02:38 0:18:28 1:06:26 0:36:27
22 Kate Roberts RSA 2:02:46 0:19:22 1:07:21 0:34:48
23 Line  Jensen DEN 2:02:47 0:18:21 1:06:34 0:36:37
24 Marina Damlaimcourt ESP 2:02:50 0:19:20 1:05:36 0:36:40
25 Agnieszka Jerzyk POL 2:02:52 0:19:47 1:06:57 0:34:54
26 Vicky Holland GBR 2:02:55 0:19:21 1:07:23 0:34:57
27 Helle Frederiksen DEN 2:03:10 0:19:31 1:07:11 0:35:09
28 Katrien Verstuyft BEL 2:03:38 0:19:43 1:06:59 0:35:40
29 Carole Peon FRA 2:03:58 0:19:30 1:07:11 0:35:59
30 Pamela Oliveira BRA 2:04:02 0:18:27 1:08:16 0:36:00
31 Maria Czesnik POL 2:04:09 0:19:28 1:07:17 0:36:09
32 Svenja Bazlen GER 2:04:11 0:19:28 1:05:29 0:38:01
33 Lucy Hall GBR 2:04:38 0:18:16 1:06:39 0:38:24
34 Juri Ide JPN 2:04:43 0:19:46 1:06:56 0:36:42
35 Nicky Samuels NZL 2:04:48 0:19:46 1:07:00 0:36:50
36 Rachel Klamer NED 2:04:59 0:19:26 1:07:14 0:36:58
37 Mateja Simic SLO 2:05:35 0:19:31 1:07:11 0:37:35
38 Gwen Jorgensen USA 2:06:34 0:19:26 1:11:06 0:34:43
39 Ai Ueda JPN 2:06:35 0:20:47 1:09:42 0:34:48
40 Daniela Ryf SUI 2:06:37 0:19:48 1:08:28 0:36:57
41 Maaike Caelers NED 2:06:53 0:20:49 1:09:41 0:35:03
42 Fabienne St Louis MRI 2:07:37 0:19:50 1:06:54 0:39:37
43 Aileen Morrison IRL 2:08:16 0:19:35 1:10:59 0:36:24
44 Zurine Rodriguez ESP 2:08:44 0:19:48 1:06:56 0:40:41
45 Flora Duffy BER 2:08:54 0:19:28 1:11:07 0:37:07
46 Annamaria Mazzetti ITA 2:09:08 0:19:24 1:11:09 0:37:19
47 Alexandra Razarenova RUS 2:09:11 0:19:47 1:10:36 0:37:26
48 Lisa Perterer AUT 2:09:12 0:20:16 1:10:12 0:37:22
49 Elizabeth Bravo ECU 2:10:00 0:19:49 1:10:44 0:38:12
50 Yi Zhang CHN 2:10:01 0:19:48 1:10:39 0:38:11
51 Zsofia Kovacs HUN 2:10:39 0:19:50 1:10:40 0:38:50
52 Paula Findlay CAN 2:12:09 0:19:51 1:10:42 0:40:16
DNF Emma Moffatt AUS 0:00:00 0:19:22 0:00:00 0:00:00
DNF Kathy Tremblay CAN 0:00:00 0:19:49 0:00:00 0:00:00
DNF Yuliya Yelistratova UKR 0:00:00 0:20:50 0:00:00 0:00:00

 

Karl is a keen age group triathlete who races more than he trains. Good life balance! Karl works in the media industry in Australia and is passionate about the sport of triathlon.

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Interview: A Look At What it Takes to Train Luke Willian

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Luke Willian’s coach Warwick Dalziel has some serious insight into motivating young athletes. After Luke placed 3rd in the U23 ITU World Championships in Rotterdam, Trizone caught up with Dalziel to uncover his coaching secrets.

About Luke

“Luke was always a fairly uncoordinated kid,” said Dalziel laughing, “but he was always really talented. When he was 13, he already had a talent for endurance sports, and he was naturally good.” When Willian started training with Dalziel, his talent was overshadowed by his inexperience with racing. “We did skills work with him and raced the national series races. He’d never swum in proper races before, so he had to learn how to swim. Yep, really learn how to swim from scratch” said Dalziel.

“There’s plenty of natural strength and some natural development to come.”

Now though, Luke is an impressive athlete, and he still has plenty of room to grow. “Luke grew over one centimetre in Europe,” said Dalziel, “that’s what makes it exciting. There’s lots of scope for him to get faster.

Luke’s brother and his entrance into triathlon

“Luke started triathlon because his younger brother wanted to try it,” said Dalziel. “Even now, they’re very close and very supportive of each other’s goals,” said Dalziel. “When he was waiting for drug test results, Luke called his brother for half an hour. That’s just what they do, and they’re always chatting.”

Luke Willian and his family are very close, and it’s this support that resonates into his training. “The family aspect of Luke’s training resonates through the family. His loyalty to them also goes through the relationship with me,” said Dalziel.

Exposing Luke to overseas triathlon creates a champion

Exposing a young athlete to the glitter of overseas racing is essential, but it needs to be at the right level and right times. “It was a matter of being slow and steady, and exposing him to European racing slowly,” said Dalziel. “It’s such a different level to Australian racing. There are so many countries and so many people. Exposing young athletes to lots of teaching techniques, race skills and how good and desperate to be good you need to be to have a shot at being an elite triathlete,” said Dalziel.

When Luke was only 16, Dalziel was training Ron Darmon, an Israeli Olympic triathlete in his squad. “Luke saw what Ron was doing, and saw what it takes to be a top athlete. He spent a lot of time learning what it takes to be a top athlete.

“When Courtney Atkinson made his comeback, he did some sessions with our squad and learned of him. He spent time with a French team with Laurent Vidal and also with the Wollongong Wizards and Jamie Turner’s squad exposing to lots of different triathletes,” said Dalziel.

“I just wanted to make sure he had a full-spectrum, worldly view, more than just an Australian view. Not that there’s anything wrong with Australian triathlon,” added Dalziel quickly, “it’s just good to have that international view.”

Seeing the way others train helps young athletes gain an open mind, however, Dalziel is clear not everything in his method can be changed. “There are some non-negotiable things we do,” said Dalziel, “but I want him to learn there is a whole world out there, so he’s not stuck.”

Willian is an incredibly keen athlete

Luke Willian’s motivation to power through a tough training session is impressive. “When I’d decided the guys in the squad could do an easy ride, they all wanted to do a crit [criterium] race instead. So they did!” said Dalziel, “they didn’t even want to have an easy session.”

“It’s so much better that training sessions are athlete-driven rather than coach-imposed.”

Dalziel is still sometimes surprised by how keen Willian can be. “Before Mooloolabah, I was away on holiday with my wife, and Willian was at home training. He had a few 120km hill rides to do,” said Dalziel. “He’d done four of them in just ten days. I was away, so I wasn’t even driving it. I knew we were in for a good season.”

Penalties not enough to ruin on Montreal

Getting stuck with a penalty is frustrating for any athlete, but the experienced junior athlete Willian powered through. “He got a bit tensed and stressed. He took the penalty early on lap three, then recovered. He raced really well. Knowing he raced really well in Montreal was great mentally, even though he finished 17th he was not far off the day .”

How good was Willian’s race in Montreal? It was his first Olympic distance WTS race, he had the 10th fastest 10 km in 32.00 – so he was within 1 min of the best guys in the world on his first go,” Dalziel told Trizone beaming.

Recovery is key to young athlete

After our chat to Matt Dixon of Purple Patch, it’s evident recovery is one of an essentially modern aspect of triathlon training, and Dalziel knows it too. “We’re always adapting our recovery process,” said Dalziel. “Luke is outstanding like that. If work goes up, recovery goes up.”

Instilling the importance of recovery is vital for young athletes, said Dalziel. “Luke was exposed to water running, ice baths and recovery from a young age, so it becomes natural.”

Physical recovery has its place, but mental recovery is just as significant to young athletes. “A lot of young athletes, especially junior guys, find it really hard to turn off,” said Dalziel. “We try and make sure they do something else. We play half-court basketball or bocce. Anything that’s not triathlon. Some of the athletes are studying business, so they study to switch off.”

Some athletes can be switched on 24/7, but some can’t. “Luke needs breaks. He schedules in time to see his girlfriend, to go to the movies and make sure there’s a plan around rest, and a routine.”

“We never train Sunday afternoon so there’s family time,” said Dalziel, “it’s important to do it young so when you’re older it’s part of your daily practice.”

Reserving time for fun and family at a young age helps solidify good habits.

Rotterdam and finishing third

After finishing preparation for Hamburg, Luke Willian moved from 50 small sprints, towards 100. “We zoned in on it after Hamburg,” said Dalziel, “running work went from shorter to longer intervals. Rather than 5km pace, we were running at 10km endurance speed.”

Montreal had been a great result mentally, and Dalziel was encouraging Willian to transition from intensity and to come back to volume. “We said – OK, where do we want to be and where do we need to go?”

Willian had a few more rest days leading into his taper for Rotterdam. “We went back into constant pace, had some extra massage, and trained one session a day rather than three. Luke got a few sleep-ins” laughed Dalziel. “We went to our run sets; standard long pace run sets. That’s 14-15km of running. We did them off distance markers, and then we just tried to shut it down.”

After flying up to Rotterdam on Tuesday, the coach and athlete duo snuck out of their hotel and had a look around the course in the middle of the night. “The next day we had lunch with squadmate and fellow U/23 athlete Matt Roberts (trains with us in Warwick Dalziel triathlon coaching) and Mick Delamotte. We laughed. We talked about baseball, state or origin [rugby] just nothing to do with triathlon. Then he went out and raced,” said Dalziel.

“For Luke, if he’s too focused and not relaxed enough it doesn’t work. He knows what he has to do.”

Dalziel’s strategy works, as Willian stormed to the finish of the U23 ITU World Championship. Finishing in third place in 1:51:48, Willian was just 20 seconds behind the leader Rachael Montoya.

Third place is a great result, but when you take away the penalty, it’s world class. “Luke took at 15s time penalty at world championships when his cap was lost off his head – so he would have been much closer,” said Dalziel.

“A 1.51.48 would have been good enough to get into the top 5 of senior men the next day (different conditions but same course), and a 31.25 (no penalty) would have been a top 10 senior men, so his times are already up there,” said Dalziel.

What young athletes do the hour before a big race

Food. Yes, it’s that’s simple, almost. “For Luke, it’s all about the food after the briefing,” said his coach. “As far as what we talk about, we keep it simple. If we’re not clear one month or one week out, I think you get distracted and you panic, so we’re always clear.”

“Some athletes need that rev up before the race – some athletes respond to that. That’s not what works for Luke.”

Dalziel customises his approach to each athlete. “If the athletes need to listen to Eye of the Tiger before the race – that’s what they do. If they need to be quiet and calm before the race, that’s what they do,” said Dalziel.

Noosa and Bribie Island to be Willian’s final 2017 races

“He’s done Noosa twice, and he’s keen to go with the big boys like Aaron, Ryan and Dan,” said Dalziel. “It’s an iconic race and has a lot of prestige. It’s one of the races Luke has on his bucket list that he’d like to do well in.”

To prepare for the infamous Aussie race, Willian will be going over the course details with Dalziel, preparing for the temperatures on the day, and getting ready for the U-turns and technical elements on the bike. “Triathlon Australia with Jamie Turner ran some bike sessions and we did some of those with fellow Waz squad member and U/23 rep Matt Roberts, Matt Hauser, Ryan Bailie, Brandon Copeland and a team of athletes to get used to the course,” said Dalziel.

Two weeks before Noosa, Willian will race at Bribie Island, a fun Queensland race. “He likes local races where he can have a good meal before, and get out there,” said Dalziel.

After Noosa, there’s not a tremendous amount of rest time for Willian. “We don’t have a huge offseason,” said Dalziel, “some sessions might be easy though, like going to Burleigh Beach and having a run and a swim, without me there.”

Once the squad is mentally recovered, it will be back to work for 2018.

“With young athletes, I find if they have a big off season, they go back into load too quickly,” said Dalziel. “They end up injured, it doesn’t work.”

With incredible insight into the psyche and needs of young, developing athletes, it’s clear Luke Willian and coach Warwick Dalziel are a fierce team. All eyes will be on Willian at Noosa to see how he does in a strong field, with fingers crossed for a solid 2018.

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Noosa: Jake Montgomery Finally Makes His Debut

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Celebrating its 35th birthday the Noosa Triathlon will be in party mode, but the very courageous Gold Coast based professional Jake Montgomery will be the one with the biggest smile, as he finally celebrates his long-awaited debut in Australia’s greatest triathlon.

“I planned on doing Noosa for the past four years, but unfortunately I have never made it to the start line,” Jake said with a casual comment that masks several horror years of extreme courage, immense pain, hardship and the rebuilding of both body and mind.

A handy runner and swimmer at school it was his first swim coach, Mick Maroney that convinced him to have a crack at triathlon. With year 12 behind him, young Jake headed over to Vitoria-Gasteiz in Spain with Jamie Turner’s squad to learn about the draft legal world of ITU Continental Cup, before eventually finding long course racing. With the help of Aussie IRONMAN legend Craig Alexander, in 2015 Jake threw himself in the deep end and headed to Boulder to continue his triathlon education on the US circuit.

“I spent three months in the US. I did a lot of training with Crowie, and he taught me the ins and outs of 70.3. He knows every aspect of it, and I was surprised how much he taught me and all the tips and tricks he gave me.”

A fifth at IRONMAN 70.3 Port Macquarie, second in 70.3 Mandurah and Western Sydney proved that the hard work was paying off, but it was IRONMAN 70.3 in Geelong where Jake finally got the result he was looking really.

“I was getting closer, and I was pretty determined to break through, and that is when I raced Geelong in February 2016 and had my first win at the National Championship. With the win at Geelong being at the National titles a lot of the sponsors came onboard, and it got pretty full on.”

Only Slowing Jake Down

Two weeks later Jake’s world was flipped upside down when he was hit by a garbage truck only 500m from home while riding back from the pool. His bike and right foot went underneath the rear wheels, and he ruptured two ligaments in his right ankle. With the pain, Jake thought he had broken his shin and that it was snapped in half and remembers picking up his leg to see if it was still straight.

Four weeks in a hospital, two weeks in a boot and Jake was given the okay to start back again…slowly. Following the doctor’s orders to the letter by May 2016, he was again headed Stateside and trying to make up lost ground in his quest to race the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships on the Sunshine Coast. Returning to Australia Jake was in the form of his life, but in a cruel twist of fate, only 16 hours before the event his world was again thrown into chaos.

“I was doing the final spin to see that the bike was ready to race in the morning. I remember every minute of the morning, lunch and getting the bike ready and then rolling out over Alexandra Headland and that is about it. I remember the first minutes of the ride, and then I got hit by the car and things flipped upside down. I have a month missing after that. It wasn’t until weeks later that I looked at my Garmin to see that the incident happened about 20 minutes into the ride. When I went from 40kmh to zero km/h.”

“I don’t have any recollection of hospital time, and when I got back home, I was just sitting in the lounge. It was all I was doing through the day. I had a fractured sternum and shoulder and several muscle tears through the neck and shoulders, and there was also brain bleeding and swelling in three different spots. The fractures are a six-week heal, but the Neurologist said he didn’t think I would be running again. He said we would give it four months, and you can try if you are desperate, but he wasn’t recommending that I try again. That wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear, and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else at that stage of my life, so I was going to try my hardest to get back to running or at least give it a go.”

“I was seeing speech therapists and occupational therapists and all the doctors. In the first session with the speech therapist, she came in, and she was quite shocked. She said, ‘Oh, you can talk.’ My speech wasn’t great, and my sentences were really jumbled and stop-start for the first couple of months. She said from what I have read happened to your brain, on paper, you shouldn’t be able to talk. So that was pretty scary to hear that I got that lucky.”

“I went through some pretty dark spots early on, where going to the kitchen was the most I could do all day. Going from 25 hours of training a week to zero was a bit of a shock and knowing that running might never happen again, I was pretty depressed at that stage and had pretty bad thoughts. I was lucky that I had my parents by my side the whole time, looking after me and helping me through it all. Without them, things would have been a lot different.”

For eight weeks Jake did nothing but then he embarked on another program to rebuild his body and confidence in the hope that he would one day get back to competing in the sport that he loved. Initially, it was the hydro pool to rebuild his strength, then a five-minute walk became a two and a half hour walk and eventually he was on a stationary trainer building up week by week. Four months after the incident his training miraculously started in earnest when he was able to run, ride and swim properly again.

Back racing in Geelong

IRONMAN 70.3 Geelong in February 2017 was his comeback race, and a fifth place in a strong field was the boost he needed. Similar results at IRONMAN 70.3 Boulder and Santa Cruz have helped rebuild his confidence and reboot his career and now Jake is determined to use the Noosa Triathlon as final hit out before IRONMAN 70.3 Western Sydney Asia Pacific Championships in November.

“After Santa Cruz, I made it to Vegas for a sponsorship commitment for Cervelo then took two weeks recovery and let the body reset. As soon as I got home, I got back into training and now have my eyes set on Noosa. I am looking forward to the draft free bike. Racing for half the time as a 70.3 I will be able to push 100 percent and see how long the body can last for. It will be a bit of fun.”

“Noosa is probably the most stacked race in Australia and the organisers put up a good prizemoney, so it encourages all the professionals in Australia to toe the line and have a crack. It is only a two and half hour drive for me so that is just nice and no plane flight required which is a bonus. Noosa will be a nice hit out and the perfect opportunity to use a bit of speed and see how the body comes down from the altitude.”

“I have spoken to plenty of people who have done it before and they love the race and the whole atmosphere of the weekend. I have heard that it is crazy busy but pretty good at the same time. So, I am looking forward to getting up there and getting amongst it,” he said with anticipation.

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Noosa Triathlon: The Big Guns Will Be In Town To Celebrate

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The 35th Noosa Triathlon Multi Sport Festival is shaping up to be the biggest yet, with the who’s who of Australian sport and some of the nation’s most recognisable faces heading to the Sunshine Coast to join in the birthday celebrations.

The five-day festival (1-5 November) features an ocean swim, a fun run, the Charity Golf Day and elite cycling and running events and culminates on Sunday 5 November with the Noosa Triathlon hosting more than 8,500 competitors, making it the world’s largest standard distance triathlon.

Headlining the Noosa Triathlon are key athletes from Australia’s Commonwealth Games triathlon team for 2018, Ashleigh Gentle and Jake Birtwhistle, defending champion Dan Wilson, plus Commonwealth Games hopefuls Aaron Royle, Ryan Bailie, Gillian Backhouse and Luke Willian.

The long-distance world is also well represented with Sarah Crowley fresh from her podium at the IRONMAN World Championships, IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Champion Josh Amberger, Jake Montgomery making his long-awaited Noosa debut, Liz Blatchford in her first race back as a new mum and two time World Duathlon Champion Felicity Sheedy-Ryan mixing it up with a swim.

Defending champ Ashleigh Gentle is shooting for Noosa title #5, and Dan Wilson is hoping to go back to back this year, but they are fully aware of the strength of the field assembled for the 35th anniversary year.

Four-time champ, Ashleigh Gentle has developed a real affinity with the Noosa over many years, and she can’t wait to get back this year.

“I’ve raced six times, and been up a couple more on top of that to watch and be part of the festival. I love the atmosphere. I love Queensland, and it is very special to come back to the race each year after spending so much time abroad. I love seeing familiar faces and being surrounded by so many other people who love triathlon. Noosa has always been really important to me. It’s the one I look forward to the most. I obviously want to do well, but there is a lot less pressure than the intensity of World Series races.”

“I would love to defend my title. I’m sure as always it will be a competitive field, but I’m looking forward to getting out there and going hard. Noosa Triathlon has been a big part of my career, and I am thrilled I can be a part of this milestone, although it only feels like yesterday we were celebrating the 30th year of Noosa,” she recalled.

Dan Wilson is a Noosa veteran, and he is hoping he can revisit the form that saw him dominate in 2016 and go out on a high note.

“I think this is around my 10th Noosa. I first came here in 2003 as a little junior. I’ve missed a few through injuries along the way, but always come back when I’m able. It is a bastion of Australia triathlon, and it is a ripping location, it is one of the ‘funnest’ races on tour. What more could you need?”

“I would obviously love to repeat last year’s result, but it also looks like it will probably be the best field we’ve ever seen at Noosa, so it’s going to be a tough ask. Noosa is always a special race, it is usually at or near the end of the season, so everyone is looking to finish the season strong at a fun race.”

“This year, Noosa will be even more special, I’m hanging up the suit at the end of this year, so it’ll be the last chance to go round at Noosa, and one of my last races ever, so I’m looking forward to really savouring the weekend,” Wilson said.

Aussie Olympian and two time Noosa champ Aaron Royle is pumped up and glad to back in Noosa looking attempting to keep his perfect Noosa record intact.

“I’ve raced Noosa twice and had two good wins there, which has been fantastic for myself in my career. I guess because of that, and the expectation to go there and win is greater with each year. I want to win again to make it three from three races, but that is always easier said than done. I’m sure there will be a handful of others saying that they also want to win.”

“I knew of the Noosa triathlon before I knew what triathlon really was, and certainly before I followed the sport. I think it was Channel 7 showing it back in the day and I remember thinking this looks pretty cool (before I even contemplated doing one myself).”

“For me, Noosa always signifies the end of my racing season, but with a race of this significances, I’ve never struggled to find motivation for this race. It’s the biggest domestic race on the calendar with so many legendary winners that have gone before, so it is easy to see why so many top-level athletes turn up each year,” Aaron said.

IRONMAN 70.3 specialist Jake Montgomery might be a Noosa debutante this year, but he is well aware of Noosa’s legendary status.

“I’ve been meaning to race Noosa for a few year’s now but have never been able to toe the line. I went there once a few years back for surfing but have never experienced the triathlon weekend.”

“Noosa is definitely the pinnacle race in Australia and one that everyone loves to put on their calendar. Not necessarily just the race but the whole weekend of event and atmosphere make it a must for many. Having not raced anything shorter than a 70.3 for the past three years it will be interesting to see how my body handles the faster racing and pushing myself over the shorter distance. I am mostly looking forward to the swim, any race with a beach start and ocean swim is a must for me.”

“Nearing the end of a hard year it will be a good hit out to finish off. While it’s still a competitive race, it will also be a lot of fun catching up with friends, sponsors and watching the other events before the triathlon. Being one of Australia’s oldest triathlons, it is now also the biggest in the country with sold out entries and days of multisport events. It attracts some of the best athletes in the world and organisers of the event have the weekend dialled in,” Jake said.

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Ironman World Championship: Europeans Dominate and Records Fall

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Daniela Ryf of Switzerland celebrates after winning the IRONMAN World Championship on October 14, 2017 in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

European dominance of the IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona has continued but not as the pre-race script had been written.

While Switzerland’s “Angry Bird” Daniela Ryf made it three Kona victories, it was not defending champion Jan Frodeno’s day, with the men’s championship title transferring to fellow countryman Patrick Lange.

Coming from a nine-minute deficit off the bike, Lange revelled in near perfect conditions to write himself into the IRONMAN history books to destroy the course record set in 2011 by Australian Craig Alexander, with a 2:39:59 marathon that helped deliver a total race time of 8:01:40.

In a record-breaking day, Aussie Cameron Wurf won the battle of the bikers taking control of the race at the 110km mark and leading into the bike/run transition to set a new bike course record of 4:12:54, more than five minutes faster than Normann Stadler’s 2006 record.

Wurf surrendered his lead early on in the run, as Lionel Sanders (CAN and Sebastian Kienle (GER) made their presence felt, but very quickly all eyes turned to a charging Patrick Lange who had moved into third at 21km of the marathon intent on reducing the six-minute deficit to the leading Sanders.

Lange was on a mission and keen to improve on his third place last year and with 5km to go on the run he flew past Sanders, heading for town and the adoring crowd lining the run course and the finish line on Ali’i Drive.

“It’s everything I ever dreamed of. Oh, my god, I cannot believe it,” Lange said. “I always, always, always since I was a child dreamed of having this crown. From time to time you think someone is hitting with a baseball beneath your knees and you just want to drop out. I had to fight, I had to fight so hard,” Lange said at the finish line.

A fading Sanders managed to hold off the hard-charging David McNamee (GBR) for second with Kienle and James Cunnama (ZAF) crossing the finish to take fourth and fifth.

Swiss miss Daniela Ryf joined an exclusive club at the IRONMAN World Championships, recording her third win in Kona with a very skilful and strategic victory that while remarkably effective, lacked her usual flair and total dominance.

Ryf didn’t have it all her way, with Lucy Charles dominating the swim and majority of the bike before Ryf decided that enough was enough. Ryf wrestled the lead off the Brit and charged home with the fastest run of the day, putting a nine-minute gap to her chasers by the end of the 42.2km run.

“It was the hardest I had to ever fight for the win. I’m so happy to turn it around today,” a more emotional than usual Ryf said at the finish line.

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Ironman World Championship: Patrick Lange Smashes Course Record and Daniela Ryf Earns Third Straight Win

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Daniela Ryf of Switzerland celebrates after winning the IRONMAN World Championship. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

Patrick Lange (DEU) and Daniela Ryf (CHE) earned championship titles with momentous performances today at the 2017 IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawai`i. Lange passed Lionel Sanders (CAN) in the final three miles, clocking in at 8:01:40 and establishing a new course record (formerly 8:03:56 by Craig Alexander, 2011). Ryf earned her third consecutive crown with a time of 8:50:47, joining an exclusive “three-peat” winners’ circle alongside the newest IRONMAN Hall of Fame inductee Chrissie Wellington and Natascha Badmann, Dave Scott, Paula Newby-Fraser and Mark Allen. Over 2,350 athletes from 66 countries, regions and territories on six continents started the IRONMAN World Championship race on the Island of Hawai`i in the toughest one-day endurance event in the world.

Patrick Lange of Germany putting the hurt on as he runs to victory and a new course record during the IRONMAN World Championship. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

Lange, who raced in only his fourth IRONMAN to-date, had an incredible ascension after having been 17th out of the swim in today’s race. Shortly after the swim, a pack of strong cyclists including Sanders, Sebastian Kienle (GER) and Cameron Wurf (AUS) broke away from the group. Wurf would sail into T2, shattering the 2006 bike course record held by Normann Stadler (4:18:23) with a 4:12:54 split. Sanders and Kienle also smashed the record with 4:14:19 and 4:14:57 split times, respectively. On the run, Sanders took a quick lead as Kienle fell into second. Meanwhile, Lange moved from 11th place to a steady third-place position by the half-marathon marker. Lange then made a decisive pass at mile 23 on the run, as he moved ahead of Sanders to take a hold of the lead, finishing strong in first place. With a 2:39:59 run split, he was only 14 seconds away from breaking the run course record he set last year (2:39:45).

Sanders hung on for second place, ultimately concluding his race with a time of 8:04:07. David McNamee (GBR), Kienle and James Cunnama (ZAF) rounded out the top five.

McNamee had the second fastest run split of the race with 2:45:30, helping him clinch a third-place podium finish by more than two minutes ahead of Kienle.

Defending champion and Olympic Gold Medalist Jan Frodeno dug deep after back spasms slowed him first to a complete stop and then run/walk pace, mustering enough strength to finish the race.

Lucy Charles (GBR) led the professional women out of the water with a 48:48 split, missing the course record by only five seconds. After a speedy transition, Charles took the lead on the bike and had an approximately a five-and-a-half-minute lead over defending champ Daniela Ryf (CHE), Sarah Crowley (AUS) and Annabel Luxford (AUS). This pace remained consistent down the Queen Ka`ahumanu Highway until Ryf attacked, making up over five minutes over the final 25 miles of the bike, which positioned her at the front of the pack. Ryf then greatly extended her lead on the run, with Charles, Crowley and Heather Jackson (USA), fighting for the remaining podium positions.

Lucy Charles of Great Britain cools down during the IRONMAN World Championship on October 14, 2017 in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

Ryf took first at 8:50:47, almost exactly four minutes off of her own 2016 course record time of 8:46:46. Calling on her epic running abilities, the Swiss star claimed her third successive IRONMAN World Championship victory.

Charles, a Kona rookie, maintained her second-place position throughout most of the run and ultimately to the finish. Crowley rounded out the top three in her second-ever appearance at the IRONMAN World Championship, finishing her race exactly two minutes behind Charles. Jackson and Kaisa Sali (FIN) rounded out the top five women.

 

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Ironman World Championship: The Best Run Images from Kona 2017

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It’s never an easy day out when racing any Ironman race let alone the World Championship. Then add in some hot and humid weather and you really have a very tough set of conditions.

Here are some of the amazing images that were captured during today’s race.

Lucy Charles trying to remain as cool as possible during the run leg. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

Lionel Sanders of Canada runs through an aid station and takes on extra fluids and also trying to cool himself. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

Patrick Lange of Germany celebrates before crossing the finish line to win the IRONMAN World Championship and setting a course record of 8:01.39 beating Craig Alexander’s 2011 record of 8:03.56. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

Age group athletes out on the run course. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

John Joseph McGowan of the United States showing us his guns and ink work. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

Unfortunately Jan Frodeno of Germany wasn’t able to really defend his title today due to an injury. He eventually finishes 35th. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

The sun sets on Kailua Kona, Hawaii and competitors continue their journey for their personal success. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

Daniela Ryf nearly the final few kilometres during the Ironman World Championship 2017, (Photo: Jesper Gronnemark/Red Bull Content Pool)

Kaisa Sali of Finland celebrates in the finish chute after finishing fifth during the IRONMAN World Championship. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

Patrick Lange of Germany putting the hurt on as he runs to victory and a new course record during the IRONMAN World Championship. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

Runners compete as the sun sets in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

Lucy Charles of Great Britain runs through the barren landscape and eventually to coming 2nd. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

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