At 22 Ashleigh Gentle knows where she’s going in the helter-skelter sport of ITU Triathlon racing – especially when it comes to Olympic distance. After a slow and steady start to the domestic and international season due to a nagging foot injury, the young Gold Coaster also knows where she’s come from and where her sport has been on the international map.
A young lady with next year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the 2016 Olympic Games squarely in her sights. Australia’s highest ranked athlete on the ITU World Rankings at fifth, Gentle is one of five women named on the Australian team for next month’s ITU World Triathlon Championships in London (September 11-15) along with Emma Moffatt, Erin Densham, Emma Jackson and Felicity Abram. And she is one of two, along with 27-year-old Abram, who has not been to an Olympics.
The others – Olympic bronze medallists Moffatt (2008) and Densham (2012) and eighth-placed Jackson (2012) – are the big three in the sport when it comes to women – following in the footsteps of some of the sport’s greats. And Gentle is determined to follow triathlon’s biggest names.
“It is a privilege to be selected to represent Australia at an Elite World Championships and something which I am very proud and honoured to do,” says Gentle, as she prepares for the race of her life in London in a month. Australia has a rich history (in ITU World Championships) and I want to be a part of the new generation to continue the legacy which has been set before us.
My early races in the year were coming off a significant period of injury so I have been satisfied to still keep considerable consistency and to have improved throughout the year, before hopefully saving my best race to last.
I would love to have a great race In London to give the selectors a convincing reason to consider me for the Commonwealth Games.”
Australia does have a rich history – winning no less than 46 ITU World Championship medals – 19 gold, 15 silver and 12 bronze in Elite Men’s and Women’s World Championships since the first titles in Avignon, France in 1989. Thirty-seven of those medals and more than half of the 24 gold medals for women have been won by eight Australians – 13 gold to Michellie Jones (1992, 1993); Emma Carney (1994, 1997), Jackie Gallagher (1996), Joanne King (1998), Loretta Harrop (1999), Nicole Hackett (2000), Emma Snowsill (2003, 2005, 2006) and Emma Moffatt (2009, 2010) – Snowsill the only one to win three.
Gentle has already experienced the highs and the lows that come with major international competition – having won gold and two silver in the ITU Junior World Championships in 2007, 2008 and 2010 respectively. Her first Elite World Championships in Auckland last year saw her chances ruined by a flat tire but in true Gentle style she continued on after losing significant time to finish 26th. She will put the finishing touches to her London preparations in the ITU round in Stockholm (August 24, 25) “to get another Olympic race under my belt.”
Unlike team mate Abram who may be forced to go into London without another race.
“I’ve had a an injury so I may not race before London but I’m determined to be as fit as possible to give myself the best opportunity for Commonwealth Games selection,” said the World Ranked number 10, who has been training in St Moritz.
Meanwhile Jackson, 22, who looked so much at home climbing the mountains of Kitzbuehel where she finished second to British girl Jodie Stimpson in the recent ITU race said she was very happy to receive the news that she would be representing Australia at the Elite World Championships in London.
“This will be my sixth time racing at the World Championships and second time in the Elite race after not competing last year post the Olympic Games,” said Jackson, the former Under 23 ITU World Champion. It’s always an honor to race for Australia and be selected into the team as we have so many great athletes and such a great depth of female triathletes. I can’t wait to get to the start line and race on one of my favorite courses and hopefully do Australia proud.”