The battle for berth in the star-studded Australian triathlon team is set to intensify this weekend at the opening race of the 2012 ITU World Triathlon Series in Sydney this Saturday.
Young guns Brendan Sexton and Emma Jackson are best placed to push the established stars in the April 14 event, which marks one of the final chances for athletes to impress selectors in order to gain Olympic selection for the London Games.
Sexton has shown tremendous promise in recent times, winning the recent Oceania championships in Tasmania and then placing a creditable fifth in the recent ITU World Cup in Mooloolaba.
But one of Sexton’s most impressive performances was at the Sydney event last year when he ran himself into fourth place, signaling his arrival amongst the world’s elite.
“It’s just great to be training again fully fit and knowing that you can give yourself every chance in a race,” Sexton said. “I have had some frustrating times because triathlon can be a pretty unforgiving sport, but I started to string together some good races this year and that has given me a great confidence boost going into this race.
“To be right in the hunt in Mooloolaba was really pleasing, especially given the quality of the field, so hopefully I can bring that form with me for what should be a very exciting race in Sydney. I don’t want to get ahead of myself “there’s a long way to go this season and this world championship series represents the ultimate racing on a regular basis in our sport “I’m starting to step up consistently in top company and if I’m to put myself in the frame for London need to keep doing that. It will be tough . . . but I’m looking forward to it.”
Brad Kahlefeldt, an early nomination for the London Olympics with partner and Beijing bronze medallist Emma Moffatt, is also a leading Australian hope in a field boasting some of the biggest names in the sport.
The world-class field features the likes of Russian pair Alexander Bryukhankov and Dmitry Polyansky, two-time New Zealand Olympian Bevan Docherty , Sydney 2000 gold medallist Simon Whitfield from Canada and Frenchman Laurent Vidal , who won the Geelong Sprint Championships in February and Mooloolaba ITU World Cup.
In the women’s field Jackson has a task ahead of her in attempting to beat Moffatt and Olympic champion Emma Snowsill.
But the 20-year-old has proved in the last 12 months she has the goods to match it with the best in the sport with the 20-year-old Queenslander capturing the Oceania Championships earlier this year with one of the quickest runs and finishing fourth overall on the world rankings in 2011.
“Last year was another huge learning experience for me in terms of racing in this series against the best in world on a regular basis, so I at least feel as though I know what to expect this year ,” Jackson said. “I’ve still got a long way to go and have some improvements, but we’ve fast-tracked some goals and London is certainly on the radar.”
With a promising return to form winning the 2012 Mooloolaba ITU World Cup, 2008 Olympian Erin Densham is looking for an equally impressive performance in Sydney to give herself every chance of making another Olympic team.
Also making her much anticipated return to racing is reigning Olympic champion Snowsill.
Snowsill has been hampered by injury and illness but is still a class athlete and a favourite to make the Olympic cut.
Joining the Australians on the start line is world ranked number one Helen Jenkins (GBR), who will be under enormous pressure to perform at her home Olympics later this year with Sydney signal ling the start of her international season.
New Zealand Andrea Hewitt has secured her place on the team to London but will be looking for another podium performance here in Sydney. She has finished second and third in the past two years and coming off the back of a bronze at Mooloolaba is in good form.
Other contenders will be Chile’s Barbara Riveros-Dias who like Hewitt has a good record at this race, a win in 2010 and second place behind Canadian Paul Findlay last year.
The Olympic Distance course offers a number of spectacular vantage points, with the athletes set to swim 1500 metres in Farm Cove, next to the Sydney Opera House, ride 40km on an eight-lap circuit and run 10km along Macquarie and College streets before finishing in Hyde Park. The event is a joint initiative between the International Triathlon Union, the NSW Government through Events NSW, and Triathlon Australia, with USM Events engaged as the event delivery partner.
2012 ITU World Triathlon Series
Race 1, Sydney, Saturday, April 14
Elite Women: 07.36
Elite Men: 10.36
Dextro Energy Triathlon Sydney
Sunday, 15 April
Age Group start: 6.35am onwards (AEST)
Emma Moffatt Brad Kahlefeldt
Emma Snowsill Brendan Sexton
Emma Jackson Chris McCormack
Erin Densham Aaron Royle
Felicity Sheedy-Ryan Ryan Bailie
Ashleigh Gentle Peter Kerr
Charlotte McShane Ryan Fisher
Natalie Van Coevorden
For race information, visit the official event website http://sydney.triathlon.org
Brendan Sexton: Eyes Wide Open Images
Emma Jackson: triathlon.org/Janos Schmidt/ITU