A never-say-die finish by Bunbury’s Rio-bound Ryan Bailie has secured a stirring silver medal for Australia with one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the ITU World Mixed Teams Relay Championship behind the US in Hamburg.
While the Americans led by Gwen Jorgensen were deserved gold medallists, the Australians never gave up and were the the talk of the town as 100,000 people lined the streets to cheer them home.
Bailie – widely regarded as the best anchorman in the game – produced the race of his life to keep Germany’s local hero Gregor Buchholz at bay in a neck-and-neck sprint to the finish for the minor medals.
The Australians were almost certainly out of contention over the (4x 300m swim; 6.6km bike; 1.6km run) course, after former Under 23 world champion Charlotte McShane led off and struggled to get herself out of the swim-bike transition.
‘I thought I had really let the team down today; I struggled in that first transition and lost the group.’
“You know it is different in a team event; you’ve got your team mates and they are going after you and you don’t want to let others get a head start,” said McShane. “But I’m glad we have such a really strong team and they were able to pull back.”
The Aussies languished in 13th place at one stage before McShane, fighting hard on the bike and run handed over to yesterday’s in-form individual silver medallist Jake Birtwhistle.
The long-striding Tasmanian produced easily the fastest 1.6km run leg of the day to put Australia into seventh position, and in with a shot with London Olympian Emma Jackson maintaining the rage to give Bailie a medal chance in the top six.
“Over the short distances it’s red hot the whole way; there’s not much you can do, you’ve just got to try and hold on,” said Birtwhistle.
Meanwhile, Bailie kept his cool on the bike and produced an amazing final run leg to nail the finish and give the Australians their second silver medal in two years behind the US in the event which saw them take bronze in the 2014 Commonwealth Games. The event is on the cards to make its Olympic debut in Tokyo in 2020.
‘It’s not over ’til it’s over.’
“We’re just so proud to wear the green and gold,” said Jackson, adding: “Australians love the relay, we love the opportunity to compete as a team and to come away with the silver two years in a row is amazing.”
Triathlon Australia’s Performance Director Bernard Savage admitted he believed Australia had the team to win. “I have to say I am disappointed we didn’t win because I knew we had the team that could win, but in saying that I am so proud of the way each and every one of them fought and their never, ever give in attitude,” he said, while also praising Bailie and Birtwhistle’s coach Jamie Turner.
“He has been working with NSWIS sprint coach Paul Hallam on the Blue Carpet Project to get his athletes ready to fight and sprint when the going gets tough over that final 100 metres on the blue carpet,” said Savage.
“And that’s what it came down to today with Ryan and the way he timed his finish to perfection. He is as cool and calm as they come and today was a steely performance from Bailie if ever there was one.”