With the sound of a Lleyton Hewitt “C’mon” ringing in his ears, Olympic triathlon hope Brendan Sexton knows the ball is very much in his court when he launches his bid to make the 2012 team for London in the Australian Sprint Distance Triathlon Championship in Geelong this Sunday.
Australia’s Davis Cup tennis players, themselves with London on their minds, will be in action against China at the Geelong Lorne Tennis Club as triathlon’s prospective Olympians start their season-proper with the two available places up for grabs on the team for this year’s Games.
26-year-old Sexton has not long come down from his Falls Creek high altitude training base, where all he did was eat, sleep, run, swim and ride in a focused month-long camp he hopes will set him up to achieve a life- long dream of becoming an Olympian.
After coming out of a post-altitude training “hole” he is starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and what he is hoping will be a clear picture of Buckingham Palace and the Olympic venue for this year’s Olympic triathlon on August 7.
And the message is clear: “Make the most of every opportunity between now and the ITU Sydney World Championship Series round.”
A repeat or better performance than his fourth place in last year’s World Championship round will certainly put Sexton in a sound position when Australia’s selectors meet to finalise the team in May.
Since 2000, there have been eight men who have earned Olympic triathlon status: Craig Walton, Peter Robertson and Miles Stewart (Sydney 2000); Greg Bennett, Simon Thompson and Robertson (Athens, 2004) and Brad Kahlefeldt, Courtney Atkinson and Bennett (Beijing, 2008).
It is one of the smallest but select groups in triathlon’s brief Olympic history that sees one of Australia’s most popular sports heading towards a fourth Games since that history-making dive into Sydney Harbour back on the opening day of the 2000 Games.
Sexton, the boy from Maitland, nestled between Newcastle and the picturesque Hunter Valley, but now firmly entrenched in the VIS program in Melbourne, would love nothing more than to add his name to that illustrious list in 2012
He aims to leave no stone unturned over the next two months as he sets his sights on a berth in a team that will line up on August 7 to race in and around iconic Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace in the City of Westminster.
“Everything is aimed towards making that Australian team for London,” said Sexton, who admits he knows what he has to do.
“It is something I have set myself for and it is something I know I can achieve “it’s just a matter of getting in and doing it.
“I am not going to change anything “I’d be stupid to change things now
“It’s all up to me. I know what I need to do and that’s continue to work hard and to replicate what I did 12 months ago in the lead up to the Sydney race where I finished fourth.
“Four weeks at altitude training where there were no distractions, it was just training every day in an environment I have become comfortable with and I know will set me up for the season ahead
“The Geelong Sprint Championship is my first race and I would love nothing more than to add my name to list of winners.
“It is a short term goal for me and it’s a shame that Brad (Kahlefeldt) isn’t racing but I know he has different priorities now (he has been pre-nominated for London) but it is still going to be a very strong men’s line up.
“Courtney is in good form after winning in Caloundra and you have Laurent Vidal (second last year), Chris McCormack and a host of all the younger boys. It is going to be a great race and you will have to get out and get into it from the opening swim leg.”
Sexton was third last year, holding off those youngsters who will be certain to put the pressure on from the outset
Another youngster with her sights on London is 20-year-old Gold Coaster Ashleigh Gentle who will be among a host of Olympic hopefuls who will line up in the women’s race against her training partner, two-time World Champion and Olympic bronze medallist Emma Moffat.
“The changes I have made over the last 12 months to join coach Craig Walton’s squad which includes Emma has been a positive move for me,” said Gentle
“Craig has been there done that and some of things I have been able to pick up from Craig have been very helpful and just being around Moffy has been a positive influence.
“We both have similar, laid back personalities but when it comes down to training hard then I have massive respect for Emma. She is so competitive and we push each other.
Geelong will be Gentle’s first race in “so long” in fact since the ITU World Sprint Championship in Lausanne last year and she is looking forward to what she admits will be a tough day.
“It is going to be tough but in saying that an ideal way to start the season before I race in Devonport and Sydney,” says Gentle.
“I am feeling good on the bike and I am looking forward to getting down to Geelong and racing.”
Gentle will face some stiff opposition, apart from Moffatt with 2008 Olympian Erin Densham, determined to get as much race practice as she can after finishing second to Emma Jackson in Caloundra last week.
They will be joined by New Zealand’s number one Olympic contender, ITU World Championship grand final winner Andrea Hewitt and a host of aspiring youngsters, who will no doubt also have their eyes on the Geelong Sprint prize.