Triathlon Australia is delighted to announce the Triathlon Australia (TA) Board has ratified the recommendation of the Triathlon Australia Elite Selection Committee (TAESC) to nominate Ashleigh Gentle and Jake Birtwhistle to the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) if Australia earns a quota place for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the completion of the TA qualification period mid year, pending World Triathlon quota allocation.
Although the formal nomination process to the Australian Olympic Committee will not be undertaken until the closure of the Triathlon Australia qualification period, the early discretionary decision ratified by the Triathlon Australia Board will provide athletes with a degree of certainty during these uncertain times and allow them to appropriately prepare for Tokyo.
Speaking on the decision, Gentle said it felt like Christmas had arrived early.
“It’s probably going to take a bit for it to sink in.”
“It’s obviously the best news I could get. This year has been a rollercoaster, and now I’m just really excited that I have so much time to plan and all going well, I can be on that plane to Tokyo next year.”
“This year is the first year since I was 16 that I haven’t had to prepare for a World Championships or World Series and I’ve really embraced the fact that I could reset and go back to basics. I’ve had a whole year of building a strong foundation and now I'm coming back to training for the 2021 season ready to really target those two days in Tokyo.”
For Birtwhistle, today’s news represents a lifelong dream coming to fruition.
“This is something I’ve been dreaming about and working towards since I was a kid,” Birtwhistle said.
“To represent Australia at the Olympics is a huge experience, and today’s news is just another step in the right direction of that dream.”
“It also takes a big weight off my shoulders. To have that certainty and not have to worry about selection heading into the 2021 season means that I can focus 100% towards preparing for the Games.”
No strangers to success, both Gentle and Birtwhistle are proven performers with the duo making their mark on the international competition.
Among Gentle’s most notable highlights is winning the 2018 World Triathlon Grand Final on the Gold Coast along with her Olympic debut, with the Brisbane-based athlete donning the green and gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Birtwhistle made his splash on the international scene at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, bringing home an individual silver medal, before a breakout 2019 World Triathlon season that saw him take out two World Triathlon Series races.
In addition to their individual successes, the pair formed one half of 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Mixed Relay gold medal winning team and played key roles in the 2017 World Triathlon Mixed Relay World Championship win.
National Performance Director, Justin Drew welcomed the early ratification of the TAESC recommendation by the TA board.
“The philosophy of the TAESC is to strike a balance between certainty and preparation of the team across both individual and relay events, alongside ensuring we keep working to maximise quota, to refine strategy and drive performance outcomes,” Drew said.
“Both Ash and Jake are proven performers at individual and relay, and I look forward to them preparing for success in Tokyo over the coming months.”
As per the Triathlon Australia 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games Nomination Criteria, no athlete is non-nominated until the close of the qualification period. There will be additional opportunity for an early discretionary decision in April, ahead of the final discretionary nomination opportunity in June, pending World Triathlon quota allocation.