Gold Coast triathlete Matt Hauser has produced the best ever World Triathlon Championship Series performance of his career producing a fast finishing fourth place in Yokohama on Saturday – reinforcing his run towards the Commonwealth Games.
Yokohama medals for the Australian contingent came in the World Triathlon Para Series from Tokyo Paralympian and PTWC 2018 Commonwealth Games silver medallist Nic Beveridge and PTS3 Paris hopeful Justin Godfrey (NSW) both snatching the gold.
Beveridge finding something extra within metres of the finish tape to surge ahead of local hero Jumpei Kimura (1:04.07) to claim a thrilling win, clenching his fists as he crossed the line with Kimura on his wheel - the pair hunched over exhausted after their duel over the final five kilometres.
Other results in the World Triathlon Para Series came from Jeremy Peacock (PTS4) fourth; Liam Twomey (PTS4) sixth; David Bryant (PTS5) fourth and Birmingham bound PTVI team member Jonathan Goerlach in sixth place.
While the fist clenching continued in a day of celebration for Hauser (his previous best was a seventh place in the WTCS Montreal in 2019) celebrating as he crossed the line behind Commonwealth rivals, British Olympic silver medallist Alex Yee and New Zealand’s Tokyo bronze medallist Hayden Wilde – who will lead a world class field into the Games in July.
Hauser dug deep during the final 10km run over the standard distance course as did his fellow 2018 Commonwealth Games mixed relay gold medallist Jake Birtwhistle (TAS) who produced a trademark 10km run to finish 14th, coming from well back in the swim.
Charlotte McShane (VIC) was the best of the Australian women in 17th just ahead of Natalie Van Coevorden (NSW) in 18th – like Birtwhistle, outside the top 10 required for final automatic Commonwealth Games nomination.
Hauser couldn’t hide his excitement with a performance in the standard distance race as he sets himself up not just for Birmingham and the WTCS season but long term towards the Paris 2024 Olympics.
And either could Gold Coast Performance Centre head coach Dan Atkins, saying: “That was the break through that he needed, especially after Covid-19 – he has really worked hard the last four months – I am proud of that result for him.
“We have been searching for that world class performance – and last year we spoke tough after the Olympics... and Matt’s now on a nice little run at the moment and it’s a result of the process and the work he has done in the off season and all the way through.
“I’m really, really happy for him - he deserved that.”
And while the Tokyo Olympic debutant has confirmed his standing in the push for the Commonwealth Games, no other Australian finished in the top 10 required to join Hauser in the automatic nomination stakes.
Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games individual silver medallist Birtwhistle, came from 47th out of the water in the 52-strong field in the swim to run himself into 14th following his fast finishing second place finish behind Hauser in the Gold Coast nomination race.
“Jake did a great job – he produced a huge run, still under 30 minutes – and to stay committed showed some real courage,” said Atkins.
“We all know how good Jake is and he has proven that time and time again and he showed that again today – it was just unbelievable how he kept focused – a real credit to him.”
Other Australian placings saw the third member of the 2018 Games team, Luke Willian (QLD) in 25th, Luke Bate (WA) 31st and Brandon Copeland (NSW) 34th.
“All the Aussies boy were in the fold from Matt to Jake, Luke and Brandon to young Luke Bate in his first WTCS race – Luke did a really good job stepping up and getting to know what the pace is like,” said Atkins.
“The cohort of boys coming through our pathways is rewarding - it’s great to see that’s working – and amazing that Jake at just 27 is the older statesman of the group – good to see them all in there having a crack.”
It was Copeland who made his move on the second of two 750m laps on the swim to exit the water in 17th and a slick transition saw him emerge on the bike inside the top ten.
And when the field settled down after the first lap on the bike there was a pack of 36 with Copeland, Hauser (24th out of the water) and Willian (30th) making their presence felt on the bike – especially Willian.
Birtwhistle, towards the back of the field in the swim, kept in touch in the chase group on the bike to help bring them within striking distance of the leading pack during the 40km bike leg.
Coming into T2 Birtwhistle was just 47 seconds off the leaders – but with almost 40 athletes in front of him.
Up front saw a duel for the ages between Wilde and Yee who were neck and neck for five kilometres, with Yee sitting on the Kiwi’s shoulder for most of it, unleashing a powerful burst on the final corner to claim victory, Hauser hanging tough for the fourth fastest 10km time of the day in 29.33.
The women’s race saw Great Britain’s Tokyo silver medallist Georgia Taylor-Brown steal a march on the final run lap from a field that included Olympic champion Flora Duffy who finished third and second placed French rookie Leonie Periault.
McShane the best of the Australians in 17th just ahead of Van Coevorden in 18th both playing encouraging ever-present roles on the bike and into the run with Kira Hedgeland finishing 23rd, Emma Jeffcoat 26th and Jaz Hedgeland 28th.
Taylor-Brown broke away in the early stages of the run only to be caught up by the Duffy led chasers including Periault and her French team mate Emma Lombardi as a group of five charged towards the back end of the run on the third of four laps of the 10km run course.
But as the bell lap tolled it was the highly composed Georgia-Brown who pushed the buttons again and surged ahead of Periault to steal the opening race of 2022 in a brave performance back in Japan.
Van Coevorden was well placed in the swim and rode herself up into the lead group of 15 with three-time World Champion Duffy leading the early charge.
The NSW girl from Campbelltown then found herself in a chase pack that included fellow Australians, McShane and leader of the pack Jeffcoat in her first major race of 2022.