IMAGE|| MICHAEL WILLSON
Australia, with a team of 12, will field its largest ever Commonwealth Games triathlon team when action gets underway on day one tomorrow with the women’s and men’s individual events.
By Ian Hanson
Australia’s elite band of triathletes will face the starter’s gun chasing the first medals of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
The women’s trio of Ashleigh Gentle, Charlotte McShane and Gillian Backhouse will be on the line at 9.30am followed by the men Jake Birtwhistle, Luke Willian and Matt Hauser at 1pm.
Then on Saturday morning Australia’s six strong paratriathlete team led by five-time world champion Bill Chaffey and reigning world champion Emily Tapp will spearhead the PTHC (wheelchair) team into the sport’s Games debut.
They will be joined by Nic Beveridge and Scott Crowley in the men’s event and Lauren Parker and Sara Tait in the women’s.
Saturday will also see the Mixed Team Relay for the second time with reigning world champions Australia favoured to fight to the finish with defending champions England, South Africa and New Zealand.
The sprint distance course in the elite individual races of 750m swim, 20km bike and five kilometre run will suit Australia’s dynamic young team – a new look team with Gentle the lone survivor from the Rio Olympic campaign.
The 26-year-old Gold Coaster has learnt a lot from her Olympic experience and is ready to tackle what will be one of the most exciting days of her career and the rest of the team, in front of her home crowd.
“It’s been a really exciting (build up to the Games); I can remember the countdown from like three or four years ago when Gold Coast first got elected to host the event,” Gentle said.
“It’s such a big thing for our city. It’s really great to be a part of that for the whole way through it and to think here is crazy, it has gone by so fast!
“I am really looking forward to seeing what I can do in front of my home crowd.
“I know It’s such a unique experience and I really just want to make sure I embrace it and soak it all up…but I think I am in a good head place knowing I have done some consistent work and where I can improve…for the Games.”
Tasmanian Birtwhistle, who has been training by himself in Launceston for the past three weeks is excited to be leading such a young team.
“I have been training solo pretty much, except for a couple of mates who have joined me for a ride or a run and I’m ready for the challenge,” said Birtwhistle.
“It was good to get through the Abu Dhabi race unscathed and get down to Australia and put the finishing touches to my preparation.
“Any race with both Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee in the field is always going to be tough but we all know they are only human and I’m sure with Matt and Luke we’ll put on a good show.”
Willian said he’s excited to line up with Birtwhistle and Hauser who he has raced growing up on the Australian Junior Series.
“It’s amazing to look at these two guys and know what we have been through since we started racing each other at 14,” said Willian.
Hauser, who turned 20 yesterday and received a surprise birthday cake from team Chef de Mission Steve Moneghetti, is hoping for a belated birthday medal.
“I will be doing my best to lead from the outset in the swim and just try and hang in there for the rest of the race – I can’t wait,” said Hauser.