Photo: Delly Carr | Triathlon Australia

Jake Birtwhistle and Ashleigh Gentle back to lead Aussies for Gold Coast Grand Final

It will be the third time the Gold Coast has played host to the Championships since the initial year in 1991 when current Triathlon Australia CEO Miles Stewart won his maiden world title and in 2009 when triple Olympian Emma Moffatt won the first of her two World crowns.

Some nine years later a 10-strong Australian Elite team – led by current World number three and Games silver medallist Jake Birtwhistle and 2017 World Series No 2 Ashleigh Gentle – will line up against the worlds best determined to put on a strong showing at home.

The 2018 World Triathlon Series champions will be determined with Birtwhistle well and truly in striking distance of a podium finish.

The 23-year-old Tasmanian is currently sitting in third place on the WTS rankings behind two-time and defending world champion, Spain’s Mario Mola and Vincent Luis (France).

Mola looks to have his third straight title in the bag with the Montreal round and the Gold Coast Grand Final remaining.

The flying Spaniard leads on 4850 points, well ahead of Luis (3810) and Birtwhistle (3245) third, in a position for his first ever podium.

Birtwhistle will be joined by fellow Games representative Luke Willian in the men’s team and Gentle, Charlotte McShane and Gillian Backhouse from the women’s team.

Matt Hauser, fourth at the Games and a member of the Mixed Relay gold medal team, is still recovering after a bike crash sidelined him with a dislocated shoulder and broken finger in May.

Also, on the Elite team will be Rio Olympic trio Aaron Royle, Ryan Bailie and Ryan Fisher with emerging Marcel Walkington named as a reserve.

In the women’s team, NSW pair Natalie Van Coevorden and Emma Jeffcoat have been named after outstanding seasons.

Gentle will return home to the Gold Coast to represent Australia on her 11th Australian team – her seventh Elite team.

“Any race at home is something to be treasured, so I am more than happy to be racing again on the Gold Coast at my 11th world championships,” said the 27-year-old.

“When I arrive to race in September, it will be the first time being home since the Commonwealth Games in April, so I can’t wait to be back.

“It’s a very different scenario than leading into the Rotterdam (Grand Final) last year, when I was going in ranked second in the World, and that’s not going to be the case this year.

“I will only have four scores on the board but that won’t hinder my motivation to do the best I can at the Grand Final.

“I’ve had my fair share of up and downs, I really feel like I’ve experienced it all this year.

“So at the moment I’m focused on Montreal, and will take each race as I go along. I have been consistent and feel I still have a lot more to give.”

Van Coevorden has enjoyed by far her best season on the WTS, culminating in an individual third placing and her silver medal at the World Mixed Relay Championship in Hamburg.

“My season has seen by far some of the best results of my career,” said the 25-year-old from Campbelltown, on her seventh team.

“Starting my year with third in the Abu Dhabi WTS, then eighth in Hamburg and being part of the two mixed relay events including the World Championship is something that I am proud of and something that I want to motivate me leading into Tokyo 2020.

“Coming into the Gold Coast I would like to finish 2018 on a high and continue to put myself in the best position possible for another WTS podium.

“I go into the Grand Final with the same thoughts as every race knowing I have done the work and have the processes in place to achieve my best result.”

McShane said although she hasn’t been able to perform the way she has wanted her training in 2018 has been the most consistent ever.

“I’m looking to end 2018 on a high. I’d love to go out there and have a cracking race to put the rest of the year behind me,” said McShane.

“It excites me to have another opportunity to perform in front of a home crowd.

“My 2016 podium in the Grand Final still brings a huge smile to my face and I’m chasing that feeling again on the Gold Coast.

Meanwhile, Luke Willian, eighth in the Commonwealth Games, followed by another top 10, when ninth in Yokohama has been named on his first Elite world championship team and says: “I will definitely be looking to improve on these results in the Gold Coast race.

“I am really excited at the opportunity to race on the Gold Coast again this year for a major championship.

“I think this race is what I have dreamed of for a long time. I remember watching the Grand Final in 2009 and said to myself, ‘I want to do that.’

“It is pretty cool to think nine years after that moment I would be announced on my first Senior Elite team to compete there. It’s a little surreal!

“I have been constantly trying to improve day-in-day-out and really hoping to put all the work I have done into use for Gold Coast.”

Australian Triathlon Team, World Triathlon Championships, Gold Coast, September 12-16:

Under 23s
MEN – Brandon Copeland (NSW), Luke Burns (VIC), Matt Roberts (QLD), Kye Wylde (QLD), Callum McClusky (ACT)

WOMEN – Jaz Hedgeland (WA), Kira Hedgeland; (WA); Annabel White (QLD), Sophie Linn (SA)

Elite
MEN – Jake Birtwhistle (TAS), Ryan Bailie (WA), Aaron Royle (NSW), Luke Willian (QLD), Ryan Fisher (QLD) Reserve: Marcel Walkington (VIC)

WOMEN – Ashleigh Gentle (QLD), Natalie Van Coevorden (NSW), Charlotte McShane (VIC), Gillian Backhouse (NSW), Emma Jeffcoat (NSW)

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