With the electric support of a raucous home crowd Australia’s Mixed Team Relay produced a flawless performance to bring home a stunning gold medal in the final Commonwealth Games triathlon event at the Broadwater Parklands today.
It was a stirring victory which saw the young Aussie foursome upset the favourites England – a team that included two of the sport’s superstars Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee, Vicky Holland and Games individual silver medallist Jessica Learmonth.
To a man and woman the “fab four” were determined to do it for each other – not wanting to let each other or the team down – and this extraordinary team spirit paid golden dividends for the reigning world champions.
Armidale born Gillian Backhouse summed it up for the team when she said “I was just grateful to be selected and I didn’t want to let anyone down."
She put the team into a great position from the opening leg, leading out of the water with England’s Vicky Holland.
The two worked together on the bike, with a pack of three – Wales, Canada and New Zealand – trying to chase them down. Backhouse, who earned her spot back on the team with an eye-catching performance in the individual race, kept sight of Holland in the run, touching second in her handover to World Junior champion Matt Hauser after charging home with a second wind.
Twenty-year-old Hauser sprinted like a mad man down to the swim to start for a stroke-for-stroke battle with Olympic silver medallist Jonathon Brownlee, finding himself able to tuck in behind Brownlee for the 250m swim leg.
The two were neck and neck on the bike, knowing that the chasing three countries were just under a minute behind. Matt came out of T2 just in front, with both Australia and England producing a solid run leg with Matt handing over to team mate Ashleigh Gentle slightly before Brownlee tagged Jessica Learmonth.
As expected, Learmonth broke away in the swim, but Gentle used the support of the home crowd to give her the boost that she needed to catch Learmonth in the second lap of the bike.
With a fast transition, Gentle went onto the run in first position and from here, the Australian team never looked back.
Gentle made sure it was her run that counted today, and that it did, handing over to Thursday’s individual event silver medallist Jake Birtwhistle who ensured Team Australia stayed in front until that finish tape was his.
Two-time Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee did his best to make ground on Birtwhistle, however the in-form Tassie tiger pulled away with England coming in second 52 seconds behind and New Zealand taking the bronze , closely followed by Canada in fourth.
“It's not going to sink in for a while, I can't believe I've got a Commonwealth Games gold medal and to feel as though I gave so much to the team as well, it's really satisfying," Gentle said.
"I'm just so glad I was able to perform for the team.”