With automatic selection for the Australian Commonwealth Games Gold Coast 2018 team up for grabs, our aussie elite triathletes are primed to bring their A games to the high speed, high pressure racing of the Jewel World Triathlon Gold Coast this weekend (8-9 April) at Mitchell Park, Southport.
Having missed the first World Triathlon Series race in Abu Dhabi, aussie favourites Jake Birtwhistle and Ashleigh Gentle are keen to get their season off to a flying start.
The whole triathlon world has been inspired by Birtwhistle’s insane early season form. Dominating the world’s best over short course at the recent Hamilton Island event, in season 2017 he is racing with confidence and maturity beyond his years.
"It was nice to be right up there in the mix, pushing the pace, digging deep and making things happen. It is kind of weird to look back and see how fast my progress has been. I don’t really think about it too much but I guess things have come a long way in a couple of years."
Jake is keen to learn from the lessons of 2016 that saw him race well but still miss Olympic selection.
"What I did wrong was to leave selection up to chance and have someone else determine my fate. My focus now is to race well when it counts, so that team selection is sorted early."
Birtwhistle has been working in the off season with Canberra bio-mechanist Mark Ellicott and is keen to put his new swim stroke to the test on the Gold Coast.
"I am on the road to slowly changing old habits. Recently I showed I could swim in the short stuff but now I need to do it over the 750 and the 1500 swim. I am looking forward to racing WTS again and be back and racing hard. It is especially cool to be racing WTS in Australia because we don’t get to do it that often. This season I will be going out there expecting nothing less of myself than to be on the podium. I have to be ‘in the race’ mentally and tick all the boxes. That will put me in the position I need to be in," he said.
Ashleigh Gentle is no stranger to the Gold Coast having lived there for the past 21 years and starting her triathlon journey with Jenny Alcorn’s Surfers Paradise triathlon club, so racing well in front of friends and family is high on her list of priorities.
"Home is always home, so the Gold Coast holds a very special place in my heart and having the Commonwealth Games on our doorstep it is really something that I have been looking forward to for a long time."
"I was pretty excited even when the Gold Coast was announced as part of the WTS but this one doubles as an automatic selection race for the Commonwealth Games. To get the first spot would be pretty special and is a big motivating factor for me."
Ashleigh came home from the Rio Olympics looking for answers to her 26th placing and is hopeful that a change training environment and working with coach Jamie Turner is the catalyst for change.
"I was really disappointed after Rio. I really don’t know how to describe the feeling. I knew I had more to give and it didn’t happen. I knew that if I was to improve and grow to be a more consistent athlete I needed to change something. If I kept on doing what I was doing I was going to get the same result. I have been consistent for a long time but now top ten isn’t enough, I need to make sure I am in contention and rivalling people for the podium spots."
"I really hope we get a massive crowd to the Gold Coast race to help us really experience the big race atmosphere. If they come along and see the race they will get a taste of what is going to happen in 2018. There is nothing more exciting than racing before a home crowd and one that is potentially for me a Commonwealth Games crowd," she said.