Cool headed triathlete Luke Willian is hoping his “never say die” attitude will be enough to earn him a place on next year’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games triathlon team.
Even if there were any doubts about the 21-year-old’s ability to rise to the occasion, dig deep or to overcome adversity they were quickly dispelled with a well-deserved bronze medal in the Under 23 ITU World Championship in Rotterdam overnight.
It was a bronze medal that could quite easily have been gold after Willian was forced to serve a 15 seconds penalty before the last lap of the run.
Eventually it was a French 1-2 with Raphael Montoyer out sprinting fellow countryman Dorian Coninx for the gold, with Willian locking the second fastest 10km run of the day, just behind Montoyer.
And for Willian, sixth in the Commonwealth Games trial on the Gold Coast early in the year, after winning the Mooloolaba World Cup, it was simply a case of “when your number is up.”
He saw his number on the penalty box whiteboard on the second lap of the bike and found out later it was for losing his swim cap in the first 20 metres after exiting the water in T1.
And he chose to serve his penalty at the end of the third of four run laps and as the French pair Dorian Coninx and Raphael Montoyer were plotting and weaving their way to the blue carpet.
“It had been Coninx and another Frenchman Leo Bergere who had broken away on the bike and a chase group, which had narrowed down to 11 and including Montoyer and Willian,” said the cool-headed kid.
“I’d had a solid swim and from where I knew I was able to catch up to those guys on the bike and even those two boys who got away up the road,” said Willian.
“It was pretty hard on that last lap to close that down and then through T2 to close that gap down but I tried as hard as I could through doing some simple things right like getting my shoes on quick to try and reduce the deficit.
“I pushed hard on the run and Montoya and I worked really well; we actually caught them both (Coninx and Bergere) and pushed hard.
“It was hard because I knew I had the penalty to serve from about the second lap on the bike and I just thought I had to get up the road as far as I could, even if they came with me.
“I thought to myself I’ve just got to try; anything to try and get away and to stay up there.
“I took the penalty on the third lap which was hard and I had to watch them run away.
“Then another competitor ran past me and I pushed hard to pass him and to try and catch leaders with 800 to go but they started hitting it up and I just couldn’t close the gap any more after getting to within four seconds of them.
“After trying so hard it was tough to take; my cap fell off as I was coming out of the water into T1 and when I saw my number it was a bit annoying.
“People’s caps fall off all the time and it got pretty rough going around that first bouy but I’ve come along way working on those processes and getting them right.
“It’s paying off; I am learning how to race when things go wrong and to still get results.
“I’m still going to learn and I’ll continue to learn for the next five years; I’ll keep learning and I’ll enjoy it.
“I will now head home and race Noosa and I would love nothing more than to make a home Commonwealth Games that would be like the cherry on top after the year I’ve already had, so fingers crossed.
“If I make it will be a dream come true and if I don’t then I know there will be a next time.”
Willian’s bronze came after Australia’s two gold to paratriathletes, vision impaired Rio golden girl Katie Kelly with guide Michellie Jones and wheelchair athlete Emily Tapp both claimed gold and Justin Godfrey and Sally Pilbeam, silvers in a strong opening day for the Australians.