The cream of Australia’s elite, paratriathlon and age group triathletes will hit the ground running in Chicago this week, some with Rio on their minds and others who will just be happy to cross the finish line holding the Australian flag.
Built up around Lake Michigan in Illinois, Chicago, will play host to the ITU Triathlon World Championship Grand Final.
Action starts tomorrow with the Age Group Aquathlon and culminates with the Elite Male and Female Standard (Olympic) distance events on the weekend.
Over 300 Australian triathletes from Olympians Emma Moffatt, Erin Densham, Emma Jackson and Courtney Atkinson to 78-year-olds John Bennetts and Lachlan Lewis – born in 1937 – the oldest competitors in the Age Group ranks.
Then there’s Newcastle’s 25-year-old Aaron Royle, the only member of the class of 2015 who has already booked himself a nomination form for the Rio Olympic team after his blistering sixth place finish in the Rio Test Event last month.
Those most likely, Ryan Bailie and Gillian Backhouse – two of the stars of the WTS season could also find themselves on the road to Rio after their eye-catching racing and who will again be looking to add to their scrapbooks with solid performances as they strive to pick up valuable points for themselves and Australia.
There will also be a strong team of Elite paratriathletes led by world champions Bill Chaffey and Sally Pilbeam – wheelchair athlete Chaffey going for world title number five and WA mum Pilbeam, who lost her right arm to cancer, out to defend the crown she won in Edmonton last year.
Canberra’s amazing 40 year-old Katie Kelly will be making her debut in the PT5 vision impaired Paratriathlon classification – a triathlete in her own right before Usher’s syndrome slowly saw her eyesight and hearing degenerate.
She too has Rio on her mind and she will have a special guiding hand to assist her around the course in none other than Olympic silver medallist from 15 years ago in Sydney, ITU world champion and soon to be Hall of Famer Michellie Jones.
It will be a big week in Chicago for the California-based Jones who on Thursday night will be inducted into the ITU Hall of Fame alongside other Australian legends, three-time ITU World Champion Peter Robertson and Olympic golden girl and also three-time ITU World champion Emma Snowsill.
Triathlon Australia knows just how valuable Jones is to the team.
“How incredibly fortunate the Australian Elite Paratriathlon Team is to have Michellie as a guide,” said Paratriathlon Manager Kathryn Periac.
“She has been training with part of the squad in Florida in the lead up to the World Championships and she brings so much more than just her athletic skills to the team.
“Hopefully next year the 2000 Olympic silver medallist can be part of another international medal this time at the Paralympic Games in Rio.”
Jones and the Paralympic team joined the Elite, Under 23s and Junior athletes at their team hotel tonight for dinner, while three-time ITU World Champion Robertson has been invited to present the Elite and Paratriathlete race suits in a traditional ceremony tomorrow night.
There will be a total of 282 Age Group triathletes, with the grandfathers of the team, Bennetts and Lewis joined by Cronulla grandmother Janice Iredale – who at 70 will be the oldest woman in the green and gold suit.
Janice is the matriarch of the Iredale family of famous Wanda surf lifesaving brothers, Doug, Chris and Greg who are now happy to pass their bragging rights to their mother.
Family ties are never far away in triathlon with Louisa Abram – mother of former Australian team member, world junior champion and World Championship bronze medallist Felicity Abram lining up in all three Age group events.
Hervey Bay’s Darren Hauser will cheer on son Matt Hauser in the ITU Junior World Championship and then tackle the Age Group Sprint race himself.
Adding to the family connections will be Orange (NSW) brother and sister pairing Stephanie and Tristan Harrison – with Stephanie taking on the Aquathlon, Sprint and Standard distance and Tristan the Aquathlon and the Sprint while Hervey Bay husband and wife pairing Lisa and Warren Kruger will have a household battle on their hands.
The Age Group Team will all gather at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Chicago tomorrow for their traditional get together – this year it’s an afternoon tea – as they prepare to do their country proud.
The Gold Coast will host the 2018 ITU World Championships in September 2018.