Australian triathletes Emma Jackson and Ryan Bailie have both produced fighting fifths in their Commonwealth Games debuts at Strathclyde Park, in Glasgow.
Queensland’s 22-year-old Jackson fought till the end of the 10km run after the field had completed two laps of the lake for the 1500m swim and five laps of the undulating bike course.
Bailie, 23, also hung in for a battle royal to the finish with Canadian Andrew Yorke, before finishing the best of the Australian men in a race completely dominated by triathlon “supermen” The Brownlee brothers “Alistair and Jonathan, who showed why they are the hottest property in the sport.
The women’s race saw Jackson (fifth), Emma Moffatt (seventh) and Ashleigh Gentle (ninth) while in the men’s race it was Bailie (fifth), his training partner Aaron Royle (eighth) and Dan Wilson (ninth).
After the 60km bike in the women’s race, staged in hot, energy-sapping conditions, in the middle of the day, Jackson tried desperately to hang on to a group of five that quickly dropped Australia’s two-time ITU World champion Moffatt.
The diminutive Jackson, who had used up her energy stocks early in the bike after a difficult swim, looked to be struggling as the English pair, eventual gold medallist Jodie Stimpson and team mate, eventual bronze medallist Vicky Holland broke away with Canada’s Kirsten Sweetland.
It quickly became a medal race in three as the experienced Stimpson broke clear towards the backend of the third run lap.
Jackson took on New Zealand’s former ITU world champion Andrea Hewitt but it was the Kiwi who fought back to take fourth, Jackson finishing fifth with her fellow Australians Moffatt, seventh and Ashleigh Gentle, who played catch up the whole race, ninth.
“That was such a tough day out there today. The swim was just so fast I was seriously trailing that group the whole swim,” said Jackson.
“I just tried my hardest to keep up with the pack. That first lap of the bike seriously was the hardest first lap I have ever done so I was pretty wrecked from that or the rest of the race.
“I was very happy I was in the front pack but it was hard work.
“I just did not have that next gear to go with the girls so if I stayed (on) that pace I would have liked it but the girls attacked and I could only hang on for fifth today.
“I knew the pace would increase some time soon and I was hoping my legs could respond to it but it was not the case.”
The men’s race was probably best summed up by Dan Wilson who admitted there were two races out there in conditions that no one thought would be as hot as it was.
“The Brownlees were in a different race to the rest of us boys so in the other race we tried to get through the race the best we could,” Wilson said.
Royle agreed, saying: “You give someone like the Brownlees an inch and they will punish you for it. They completely showed today they have taken the sport of draft legal racing to a new level and I don’t think many people would argue that after seeing their performance today.
“When it was just myself and Ryan riding against the two Brownlees, they were just too strong and we couldn’t get there.”
South African Richard Murray, a noted runner, came through the field to take over bronze and Bailie, who made his move towards the last lap of the run with Yorke, never gave up hope of challenging for the bronze.
“We tried to get across that small gap the Brownlees had (early on) and we didn’t have the legs there to close it and then it was, ‘What do we do? Do we wait’?” Bailie said.
“We ended up sitting up and waiting for that second pack to come and the lead just grew and it was a matter of saving it and trying to run for that last spot on the podium.”
“The race got away [at the] 1200 in the swim when that little gap opened up and it was enough for them. We didn’t have the legs to shut it at the early stage of the bike and pretty much there goes the gold and silver up the road.”
The Australians now have a day off before coming back for the inaugural Mixed Teams Relay when they will once again go head to head with an English team that left Strathclyde with four medals and a tonne of confidence.
“But Saturday is another day and we’ll come out fighting again “there’s medals up for grabs,” said Australian Team manager Bernard Savage.