Australia has named a strong team boasting a blend of youth and experience for the historic world championship series opener, despite the withdrawal of Emma Snowsill.
The reigning Olympic champion has been forced to miss the opening round of the Dextro Energy Triathlon “ITU World Championship Series to be held at Sydney Harbour on April 11, having been laid low by a virus in recent months after recovering from hip surgery late last year.
The Aussie contingent will be headed by reigning ITU world champion and Olympic bronze medallist Emma Moffatt, and the winner of Saturday’s ITU Mooloolaba World Cup, Olympian and 2006 Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Brad Kahlefeldt.
The men’s team boasts the experience of three-time world champion Peter Robertson, Olympian CourtneyAtkinson and veteran Greg Bennett, along with emerging talent such as Dan Wilson and 2009 Under 23 World Championships silver medallist James Seear.
The women’s team has been affected by the losses of Snowsill and former ITU world number one Annabel Luxford, who is suffering from shin splints, but will be boosted by the expected return to racing of Moffatt, who suffered a break to her shoulder in a January training accident. Rising talent Emma Jackson will also race having missed Mooloolaba last week for a scheduled rest, as will the well-credentialed Felicity Abram, who missed much of last season.
Snowsill was always racing the clock to be fit for this race and while she is now in full training, the debilitating virus she contracted over summer meant she did not have the base fitness required to compete at her best in an Olympic Distance event this early in the season.
Kahlefeldt was happy to get that winning feeling back and is looking forward to Sydney. “After Mooloolaba you always pull up a littler sorer than from other races because you’re charging up and down hills, but everything is going well leading into Sydney and I’m confident that I’m in pretty good shape,” he said. “Obviously it’s difficult to win every time because in these big events there is so much depth and there are probably at least 15 guys capable of winning, but I’ll go into this event knowing that I’ve prepared as best as possible, and that at least puts me into the mix.”
Moffatt’s primary focus, at this stage at least, is simply getting herself to the start line. “Everything is going well at this stage, so I’ll continue doing a fair bit of work in the pool and see how I feel over the weekend,” she said. “It all depends on my swimming “how I handle the volume of work and whether I have the speed to keep up. Overall, though, I’m feeling good. I did the 5km fun run in Mooloolaba and that was a bit of fun. The time was close to what I wanted to do, so from a running perspective I feel as though things are tracking along OK.”
AIS Senior Triathlon Coach Shaun Stephens was hopeful Moffatt would start.
“Emma (Moffatt) is looking more and more likely to start,” he said. “Medically she has been cleared, so it’s just a matter of swim fitness. Snowy just ran out of time, but she’s looking great and itching to get back into racing.”
Stephens said the men’s team contained athletes at both ends of the experience spectrum. “We’ve got 2008 Olympians there in Brad Kahlefeldt and Courtney Atkinson and a couple of very experienced campaigners in Greg Bennett and Peter Robertson who are the last two Australians to win on this course, having won the 1999 and 2000 Olympic test events respectively in the lead-up to the Sydney Olympics,” Stephens said. “Jimmy Seear and Dan Wilson, by coming third and fourth respectively at Mooloolaba last week, proved they can mix it with the best and it will be a great thrill for the rest of our emerging brigade.”
RACE 1: SYDNEY, APRIL 11
AUSTRALIAN ELITE TEAM
Brad Kahlefeldt (NSW)
Courtney Atkinson (Qld)
Greg Bennett (NSW)
Peter Robertson (NSW)
James Seear (Qld)
Dan Wilson (Qld)
Gareth Halverson (Vic)
David Matthews (NSW)
Joshua Amberger (Qld)
Josh McHugh (NSW)
Samuel Betten (Qld)
Emma Moffatt (Qld)
Emma Jackson (Qld)
Felicity Abram (Qld)
Felicity Sheedy-Ryan (WA)