NSW triathlete Natalie van Coevorden, her vision now squarely on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, is ready to become a triathlon bride and nothing would make her happier than to waltz towards the end of 2018 on a winning note.
There are two major domestic events left on the elite Australian triathlon calendar – Sunday’s historic Nepean Triathlon – the oldest triathlon in Australia before Sunday week’s Noosa Triathlon – one of Australia’s most iconic races.
Adding her name to the honour roles on these events would make the girl from Campbelltown one very happy camper.
In four of the last six Nepean Triathlons –over a 1km swim; 30km (non drafting) bike and 10km run format the 25-year-old has chalked up one second and three third placings – third and second to 2016 Olympian and fellow training partner, Olympian Ashleigh Gentle in 2017 and 2016 and third to 2008 Olympic bronze medallist Emma Moffatt in 2015 and 2013.
“It would be nice to finish on the top rung of the podium after all those placings that’s for sure,” said Van Coevorden, who is now a serious contender for a place on Australia’s Olympic team in two years time.
“And this style of racing (none drafting) will suit me in a race that really should come down to Ash (Gentle) and myself.
“I’m hoping a hard swim and bike will pay off and that could well make the difference in the end – it will be a case of playing to my strengths early and hanging on from there.
“Just the tiniest gap out of the swim and then get down the road – that’s the plan.”
Van Coevorden, who has spent the past eight years under Jamie Turner, Triathlon Australia’s coach at the International Performance Centre, Wollongong, has been “flying solo” in her preparation.
“That’s the way it is after the World Triathlon Series, Jamie leaves it up to us – after a few cruisy days in Queensland after the Grand Final on the Gold Coast I’ve been back at home with my family in Campbelltown and it’s so good, ” said Van Coevorden.
“It’s a solo grind but something I really enjoy doing – it makes it more challenging by myself and I actually do some of my best work, it motivates me more.”
It comes after Van Coevorden’s most consistent season on the WTS circuit where she finished 11th overall – saying “if you had offered me a top 15 finish at the start of the season I would have taken it.”
Van Coevorden’s 2018 highlights included her first WTS podium where she was third in Abu Dhabi; also 8th in Hamburg; 14th in Yokohama; 5th in both the Mooloolaba and Antwerp World Cups as well as breaking her way into Australia’s Mixed Relay team for the new Olympic event – finishing second in the World Championships and winning the Edmonton round of the World Series Mixed Relay.
“This year has definitely been a turning point with patience and persistence – the start of something new and making progress towards the next two years,” said van Coevorden.
“I came in with a new outlook, knowing what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be – over the past eight years with Jamie (Turner) we have developed a relationship that works for me.
“I know and he knows what works and we have nailed down the finer points to get to the pointy end of the field.
“And it’s a field that doesn’t get any easier – it’s not going to be an easy ride; they are setting the bar higher every year and leading into Tokyo it’s going to be even higher.”
Since Rio, Olympic bronze medallists Moffatt and Erin Densham (2012) have both retired with 2016 teammate Gentle, second in the 2017 WTS and the winner of this year’s Grand Final on the Gold Coast last month is setting the pace in the race for Tokyo berths.
Add in the likes of this year’s Commonwealth Games representatives Charlotte McShane and Gillian Backhouse, newcomer and former champion lifesaver Emma Jeffcoat, 2012 Olympian Emma Jackson with Van Coevorden and the race for 2020 will be on in earnest next year.
“The Olympics is now a realistic goal for me – my ultimate goal…my dream,” said Van Coevorden.
But for the moment some smaller goals along the way in Penrith on Sunday, before Noosa and a holiday in Queenstown then planning her Olympic assault for Tokyo.