WHEN Newcastle’s Wollongong-based Aaron Royle is striving for something extra in tomorrow’s ITU World Triathlon Series opener in Auckland he won’t have to dig too deep to find added inspiration.
Royle will return to Auckland â€“ the happiest of his hunting grounds on the international triathlon circuit, some six months after being crowned ITU Under 23 world champion following his stunning performance on the at times brutal Auckland course last October.
And waiting for him will be Olympic bronze medalist, last year’s Auckland Grand Final winner and last month’s ITU Mooloolaba World Cup winner Javier Gomez (Spain) and a team of Russian brothers led by Alexander and Andrey Bryukankov and Ivan and Denis Vasiliev.
Royle will also be joined in the men’s field by his Wollongong-based training partner Ryan Bailie and a third Australian, Canberra-based Sydney triathlete Cameron Good.
Two more of the Wollongong group headed up by Triathlon Australia coach Jaime Turner, Natalie Van Coevorden and Charlotte McShane will be joined by Felicity Abram and London Olympian Emma Jackson in the women’s race.
Royle’s 2012 world title has set the stage for the arrival of an exciting new generation of Australian men to move on to bigger and better things as the rest of the world tries to get their heads around matching the big three â€“ Great Britain’s Brownlee brothers Alistair and Jonathan and the flying Spaniard Javier Gomez.
But sometimes out of championship winning performances come rewards and inspiration that you don’t always expect.
For Royle, one of the proudest moments of his career came just last month when he was named the 2012 Chris Hewitt Emerging Athlete of the Year by Triathlon Australia.
The late Chris Hewitt, a former Triathlon Australia and Triathlon WA president, was as passionate about the sport of triathlon as he was about creating the best possible pathways for young triathletes to achieve their dreams.
Hewitt, who died unexpectedly in Perth in 2006, was remembered not only as a quick witted, lateral thinking, dedicated athlete and go-ahead administrator but also for his â€œcan doâ€ attitude.
His legacy lives on with his annual award winnerswith the likes of Erin Densham (2006), Brendan Sexton (2007) Dan Wilson (2008), James Seear (2009), Emma Jackson (2010) and Ashleigh Gentle (2011) all previous winners of the Chris Hewitt Award â€“ three of them already going on to the Olympic arenaâ€“ all with their eyes on Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
â€œAs an athlete you never really look for the rewards that come from a performance but I must admit when I received the Chris Hewitt Award at the Celebration of Champions Dinner this year, it was one of the proudest moments of my life,â€ said Royle, whose acceptance speech certainly touched the hearts of those in the room, especially his mum Kim and dad Ken.
â€œI was obviously not around racing in Chris’ time but speaking to former Olympic head coach Bill Davoren he gave me an insight into Chris’ thoughts on the development of younger athletes and I was greatly honoured to be recognised with the award.
â€œI will certainly carry his spirit into Saturday’s race which I am really excited about. I have some wonderful memories of winning the world title alongside my team mates last year and it will be very exciting to go back to Auckland.â€
And Royle has spent 21 days replicating his â€œhigh altitude trainingâ€ program in the lead up to the opening round where he has been â€œriding hot and sleeping high.â€
Under Turner and NSWIS physiologist Kate Slattery, Royle has followed almost a carbon copy of the assimilated high altitude and hot temperature training set-up as he did in the lead up to the Auckland World Championships last year.
â€œI have spent over 300 hours sleeping in an altitude bubble at home in Wollongong, replicating a height of over 2,500 metres and riding twice a week in the heat chamber at NSWIS in Sydney with the temperature set at around 35 degrees before a build run on the treadmill,â€ said Royle.
â€œWe have had to make some slight changes to the preparation as this race is the start of the World Series and last year was a one off World Championship race and there is a busy year ahead but it is almost the same as the 2012 preparation.
â€œUsually by this time of the year I have had (a lot more) races under my belt but I’ve had to hold things back and pull the reins in. I’ve been eager to race for the past two weeks.â€
In his previous hit out Royle finished a close-up second to fellow in-form Australian Peter Kerr in the ITU Oceania Championships in Wellington early last month.
Alongside Royle will be his training partner and squad member of the past five years, Ryan Bailie, who admits the training environment in Wollongong has played a major part in their careers to date.
Bailie said his own goals were to try and set up his race with as good a swim as he can.
â€œIt’s all about the swim for me; if I get out of the water well and get a good ride then I’ll be happy. My swimming (with Olympian Brendan Sexton) has been going well so I’ll be looking to put it together in the race.â€
Bailie, like Royle, knows there arebigger fish to fry throughout the year and patience will serve them well as the ITU season unfolds.
Young Stars On The Rise In Women’s Race
The women’s race will see rising stars Natalie Van Coevorden and Charlotte McShane joined by an in-form Felicity Abram and Emma Jackson, who is still finding her feet after the London Olympic campaign but who has produced some spirited training sessions under coach Stephen Moss over the past two weeks.
The girls will face a classy women’s field led by 2012 Auckland Grand Final winner and ITU Mooloolaba World Cup winner Anne Haug (Germany), her Canberra-based training partners Jodie Stimpson (GBR) and Aileen Reid (IRE), Kiwi Olympians Andrea Hewitt and Kate McIlroy and Gwen Jorgensen (USA).
Abram showed she is in good early season touch when she won the ITU Oceania Championship ahead of another of the Wollongong group Grace Musgrove, a race that saw VanCoevorden and McShane finish fourth and fifth respectively.
It was the experienced Abram who impressed with a determined run leg to overtake Kiwi Olympian Kate McIlroy and Musgrove, maintaining her advantagethrough to the finish line.
Van Coevorden and McShane then backed up to tackle the heat and the hills of the ITU Mooloolaba World Cup, again delivering consistent form to finish fifth and seventh respectively.
Turner, the former Kiwi, knows he has prepared girls for whatever is thrown their way when they dive into the chilly Auckland Harbour.
â€œIt will be a case of search and discover for these girls who won’t take a backward step and will get on the front foot against a classy field,â€ said Turner.
â€œThey will be ready for anything. They trained at North Beach the other morning where it was 16 degrees, windy and cold.â€
MEN’S RACE: 10.05am (AEDST); 9.06am (AEST) Saturday, April 6. START LIST
WOMEN’S RACE: 1.05pm (AEDST); 12.06 (AEST) Saturday, April 6. START LIST
FULL PREVIEW: Grand final winners return to Auckland
LIVE COVERAGE â€“The ITU will broadcast the race and all the ITU World Series races live on www.triathlon.org/tv.
2013 ITU WORLD SERIES DATES:
Auckland: April 6,7
San Diego: April 19-20
Yokohama: May 11-12
Madrid: June 1-2
Kitzbuhel: July 6
Hamburg: July 20-21
Stockholm: August 24-25
London: September 11-15
Issued on behalf of Triathlon Australiaâ€¦..