Gold Coasters Ashleigh Gentle and Emma Moffatt have returned Australia to the ITU World Triathlon podium in style claiming silver and bronze medals in Yokohama today.
The unstoppable American, Gwen Jorgensen racked up her ninth consecutive victory in the Japanese city where it all started for this triathlon superstar in 2014.
It has been a long hard road for both Gentle and Moffatt over the past year but the pair, with next year’s Rio Olympics squarely in their sights, unleashed the kind of ability that delivered Moffatt an Olympic bronze medal in 2008 and two ITU World Championships and Gentle two junior world titles.
Both raced aggressively all day, Moffatt in the lead group out of the water and at the front of the group on the bike while Gentle played a key role in bridging the chase group up before landing her maiden WTS podium finish.
It was an emotional Gentle that admitted it hadn’t yet sunk in.
“I don’t think it will for a while, it feels pretty good,” said the 24-year-old who was not expecting that performance based on the past year but very happy with the result.
“I did my first ever WTS race at the test event for London in 2011, I got ninth there and it’s taken me quite a few years to actually get on the podium, it’s definitely worth the waiting for because it’s a pretty awesome feeling, a real confidence booster for the rest of the season.
“I guess not judging by the results I’ve had this year, I haven’t been that great but had a really good block of training. My coach Cliff English has been working me pretty hard this past five weeks after the Gold Coast race, my training has been going really well but you never know come race day.”
The smile on Moffatt’s face as she crossed the line was a mix of relief and excitement.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been up on the podium and to be there with Ash’s first podium is pretty special so really happy with today’s result,” said Moffatt.
“For me I think about getting my confidence back and today’s probably the first step to doing that.
“The last year I’ve had a lot of doubt when racing so hopefully now I’ll be able to back myself a little bit more and hopefully keep on improving.”
The Australian women all executed solid races today and figured in the lead group once they all came together on lap three of nine.
Earlier choppy waters and drizzling rain greeted the women and enforced a wetsuit swim. First to emerge was American Summer Cook, Japan’s Yuka Sato and Spain’s Carolina Routier.
A lead group of 22 formed early on the bike, which included the likes of Jorgensen, Cook, Sato, Andrea Hewitt (NZL) and Claudia Rivas (MEX), the formed leads was short lived.
The rain created slippery conditions for the women, and the priority was staying upright and strategic on the nine-lap that totalled 20 corners that could have caused chaos. The initial leaders soon doubled in size thanks to the efforts of Rebecca Spence (NZL) and Gentle who were the driving force in bridging the gap to the front group.
Moffatt was never far from the front of the pack, while Australia’s Gillian Backhouse and Charlotte McShane were also tucked into the group and riding smartly.
Now 40 strong with two laps remaining the group eventually increased as the chasers caught up and closed the gap with two laps to go before the run.
The final transition was hectic and a big group headed out for the final 10km.
However it did not take long for Jorgensen to hit her straps and burst from the group and continue to extend her lead all the way to the finish and her ninth consecutive win and three-peat win in Yokohama
Gentle also emerged from the group on lap two, moving herself into medal contention, but soon established space between her and the chasers.
She look composed, although later revealed crazy thoughts were going through her head.
When she hit the blue carpet the realisation caught up with her and could not hold back the tears.
Spurred on by Gentle’s performance up ahead drove Moffatt’s conviction to also share the podium.
On the last lap she moved into another gear to make sure that bronze medal was hers.
It’s the first time two Australians have stood on an ITU podium since 2011 when Australia’s Emma’s – Moffatt, Snowsill and Jackson took the trifecta in Hamburg and it a very pleasing result for Moffatt after struggling with health issues the past year.
“Although she was in front of me she was definitely pushing me the whole time and I thought it would be pretty special to share a podium with her so it definitely motivated me,” said Moffatt.
McShane had a solid day and also featured in the front group, but incurred a 15sec penalty, eventually finishing 24th.
However, it wasn’t the comeback that Emma Jackson had hoped for withdrawing on the run leg. Jackson has been sidelined with Sacral stress fracture back in January.
Despite featuring at the front of the bike today and leading the field out onto the run Gillian Backhouse also withdrew.
Jorgensen has accumulated nine successive wins but Moffatt retains the lead for most podiums with 16.