It was the biggest night in Triathlon Australia’s proud history, with Australia’s 946 individual Age Group triathletes, preparing for this week’s ITU Grand Final at the Broadwater Parklands, making up the majority of the crowd at the Gold Coast Convention Centre.
It was a celebration and recognition of triathletes young and old as over 5000 athletes from all round the world unpacked their bikes and their running shoes for this week’s 2018 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final – incorporating the World Triathlon Series.
A night which saw Australia’s three-time World Champion and dual Olympian Peter Robertson become the 13th inductee into the Triathlon Australia Hall of Fame and Maureen Cummings, Nick Croft and Liz Hepple elevated to Legends of the Sport.
There was also an emotional tribute to one of the sport’s greatest supporters in Nick Munting, who passed away suddenly earlier this year, with his wife Alison and daughter Ashlee on stage to accept a well deserved posthumous Services to Sport Award.
And on the eve of one of his biggest ever races, it was Tasmania’s favourite triathlon son and Australia’s top ranked (2nd in the world) Elite triathlete, Birtwhistle, who stole the honours for a spectacular 2017.
Birtwhistle, who is second behind Mario Mola on the 2018 WTS Rankings and who is capturing the imagination of the sports keenest eyes, won best Male Performer of the Year for 2017 and the prestigious Athletes Athlete Award while the Gold Coast’s own Ashleigh Gentle was named the Female Performer of the Year.
For 23-year-old Birtwhistle, 2017 was a breakthrough year – finishing second in both Hamburg and Edmonton and spearheading the Australians to gold in the Mixed Team Relay.
“I’d like to thank everyone who has helped me get this far; 2017 was certainly an exciting year and one I was proud of but I couldn’t have done it without my coach Joel Filiol and everyone who has played a part in my career, particularly my parents and my family,” said Birtwhistle, who knows he still has a job to do come Sunday’s Grand Final.
Hauser, who joined Birtwhistle, Gentle and McShane to win the 2017 Mixed Team Relay in Hamburg as well as his individual ITU World Junior title in Rotterdam, was presented with the Chris Hewitt Emerging Athlete Award.
The night also saw paratriathletes Emily Tapp and Justin Godfrey recognised for their outstanding years – Tapp crowned World Champion in the PTWC in Rotterdam as well as her four wins in Edmonton, Magog, the Gold Coast and Devonport while Godfrey won the Gold Coast and Devonport and was second in the ITU Worlds in Rotterdam.
They represent an Australian paratriathlon group that is the envy of many countries around the world and who will be in the firing line again come Saturday’s World Championships.
Birtwhistle, Hauser, Gentle, Justin Godfrey, Tapp, Nic Beveridge and Bill Chaffey were all nominated for the Athletes Athlete – with Birtwhistle taking the honour as voted on by his peers.
The award is voted for by all athletes with a professional athlete membership and honours the athlete who has shown the most outstanding performance over the previous ITU and WTS racing season in the eyes of their fellow athletes.
When voting for the Athletes Athlete of the year award, other outstanding qualities and taken into consideration such as leadership skills, ambassador of the sport qualities and positive attitude.
Gold Coast-based Dan Atkins (QLD) was named High Performance Coach of the Year for his work with ITU World Champions Matt Hauser (Junior) and Paratriathlete Katie Kelly (PTVI) and third placed PTWC world championships Nic Beveridge.
While Fabrizio Andreoni (Murray River/Albury/Wodonga) – was awarded Age Group Coach of the Year for his work with a 100-strong squad of juniors, paratriathletes and age and elite athletes, including the likes of Justin Godfrey.
Other award recipients on the night were:
– Melinda Farr – the John Ison Award for the TA Technical Official of the year.
– David Williams (NSW) and Sue Scott (Western Australia) – the Rob George Award for Technical Officials, nominated by the States.
– Michael Sanderson and Peter Marconi (QLD) – 30 year Technical Official Award; Frank Stapleton, Michael Wise and Robyn Scott (WA) and David Wilkinson (SA) – 20 years Technical Official Award.