The 30-year-old from Armidale has been a regular on the international triathlon scene with an impressive 72 starts, 17 podiums and seven wins over her ITU/World Triathlon career.
The 41st member of the Australian team, Gillian Backhouse was part of Australia’s Silver medal 2015 Hamburg ITU Triathlon Mixed Relay World Championship team and 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Mixed Relay team who won a historic Gold for Australia in front of a home crowd at the Southport Broadwater Parklands.
Backhouse first started triathlon in year 12 of high school as a Junior athlete, and studied Marine Biology at university before becoming a professional triathlete. In 2014, she topped podiums around Australia and abroad – winning the Australian Elite Championships and OTU Triathlon Oceania Championships in Devonport, before claiming her first World Cup win at Chengdu in the elite women field, and capping off an impressive year of international performances with Silver at the 2014 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final Edmonton in both the Mixed U23 Junior Relay and U23 world championship events.
Another seven years at the elite level and Backhouse has carved out a career to be incredibly proud of – on top of her memorable Mixed Relay team successes, Gillian’s elite achievements include third place at 2015 ITU World Triathlon Edmonton and first place at the 2017 Karlovy Vary ITU Triathlon World Cup.
In her official announcement of her retirement to fans, she shared “It has been truly special and I cannot thank enough, everyone who has had even the smallest part to play in this journey.”
“I step away with a tear in my eye but a spring in my step. I am sad, deeply sad, to be leaving something I have held so dear and that has brought me the most incredible of highs but also deep lows. I am excited, truly excited, for the adventures that now await in the rest of my life.
“I am grateful for all that the sport has taught me and given me, and grateful to be stepping away in my own time.”
On coming to her decision, she says it follows a period of challenges, reflection and thinking about the future, before determining the timing was right to move on.
“I guess I haven’t necessarily been thinking specifically about retirement, more so over the last 6 months or so – even the last year – thinking what I want out of the sport, why I was doing it and what else I want out of life. And in the end, I couldn’t necessarily answer all the questions about why I was still doing triathlon,” said Backhouse.
“I’m excited for the other things that I can now do and looking forward to new opportunities.”
With many emotions and memories to process and celebrate, one stands out as being particularly special – Commonwealth Games on home soil, on her Mum’s birthday.
“The Commonwealth Games Gold medal was pretty awesome because that was a team event so we were doing it together – it was special to share that with other people,” said Backhouse.
“It was my mum’s birthday that day also and she was there watching – my Mum, Dad and Sister were all there – they don’t usually get to watch me race so that was pretty special as well.”
Another career highlight was her Silver medal at the U23 World Championships, which was “pretty special as well”.
“That was my last year as U23 and I really wanted to make it to the World Champs that year. It was pretty special to go in as number one and finish with a Silver medal,” said Backhouse.
While sad to be leaving behind a chapter that has been so special and a big part of her life – she’s excited to explore her other passion, environmental studies.
“I’m studying a Masters in Environmental Science at the moment, I’m quite close to the end of that degree so looking forward to working in that area,” said Backhouse.
“One thing I’m definitely looking forward to is spending more time with my family, having weekends, being able to go on holidays when I feel like it…” but triathlon is still in her future, “for sure I’ll stay involved,” said Backhouse, “I’d like to stay involved going forward, possibly mentoring younger athletes.”
Triathlon Australia congratulates Gillian Backhouse on an outstanding and successful elite career representing Australia, and thanks her for her contribution to the sport.
“Gillian has represented Australia proudly on the world stage and will go down in the triathlon history books as a Commonwealth Games Gold medallist – a champion in one of our sport’s proudest moments,” said Miles Stewart OAM OLY, Triathlon Australia CEO.
“We’re incredibly thankful for her contribution to Australian triathlon and we wish Gillian all the best for her future career.”
Australian Representative #41 Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Mixed Relay Gold Medallist Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games – 9th 2015 Hamburg ITU Triathlon Mixed Relay World Championship Silver Medallist 2015 ITU World Triathlon Edmonton Bronze Medallist 2014 Pontevedra ITU Duathlon World Championships Gold Medallist (U23 Women) 2014 Pontevedra ITU Duathlon World Championships Silver Medallist (Elite Women) 2014 ITU WTGF Edmonton U23 World Championships Silver Medallist (U23 Women) 2014 ITU WTGF Edmonton U23 World Championships Silver Medallist (Mixed U23-Junior Relay) 2 x ITU Triathlon World Cup Wins (2014 Chengdu, 2017 Karlovy Vary)
3 x ITU World Championships teams: 2014 Pontevedra (Duathlon), 2015 Hamburg, 2015 Adelaide (Duathlon)
Represented Australia at 4 x World Triathlon Grand Finals: Chicago 2015, Cozumel 2016, Rotterdam 2017, Gold Coast 2018
Karl is a Sydney based father of 3, a keen home improver and an age group triathlete who races on the M5 Acadamies triathlon team, coached by 'The Croc' Brad Beven. A good life balance is incredibly important! Karl is the co-founder of Trizone, works in the commercial joinery industry in Australia and is passionate about the sport of triathlon.