Australian mixed relay team triumphant at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. Photo: Triathlon Australia/Delly Carr

Australia Takes Gold in Commonwealth Games Mixed Relay Triathlon, Gentle Celebrates Big Comeback

The Australian team won on its own turf in Saturday’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games mixed team relay triathlon. The team included Ashleigh Gentle, Matthew Hauser, Jake Birtwhistle, and Gillian Backhouse. Birtwhistle secured the victory in 01:17:36, 52 seconds ahead of England’s team and 01:52 ahead of the bronze winners of New Zealand.

For Birtwhistle, the mixed relay marked a Commonwealth Games podium streak after he nearly closed a wide gap behind South Africa’s Henri Schoeman, in the run leg of Thursday’s men’s triathlon, and won a silver. For Gentle, it was a major comeback story after she missed the Thursday podium by two positions.

Ashleigh Gentle Excels in Relay

Gentle, the third member on the course, made up for a 15-second deficit in the 250m swim leg by handing Birtwhistle a 39-second lead during the 1.5km run, easing his sprint to victory.

Gentle didn’t have it easy. She struggled with Thursday’s silver winner, Jessica Learmonth of Britain, during the entire 7km bike leg, which they completed together. Learmonth had a slight mishap while dismounting her bike, giving Gentle an opportunity to sprint ahead of her in the run before handing the final run stretch to her teammate.

A Tough Week for the Brownlee Brothers

Birtwhistle commanded a solid, and growing lead, over two-time Olympic champion, Alistair Brownlee of England. Brownlee had a rough week after realizing he did not give a prior calf injury enough time to recover. His brother, Jonny, was also recovering from a leg injury.

Who Australia was Up Against

England had a truly all-star team. Other than the Brownlee brothers and Learmonth, the team also included Vicky Holland. In the individual triathlon race, Learmonth and Holland claimed silver and bronze behind Bermuda’s Flora Duffy, who finished in 00:56:50, 43 seconds ahead of Learmonth.

The New Zealand quartet had Tayler Reid, Nicole van der Kaay, Andrew Hewitt, and Ryan Sissons. Sissons, a last minute replacement for Tony Dodds, claimed fifth in the individual triathlon. Dodds finished in 16th. Pundits had high expectations for Hewitt this year, but she finished 13thin the individual race.

 

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