More than 270 of Australian triathletes have converged on Rotterdam this week for the ITU World Triathlon Championships Grand Final.
From Olympians Aaron Royle, Ryan Bailie, Ashleigh Gentle, Emma Jackson in the Elites to unstoppable 2000 Olympic silver medallist Michellie Jones and 2016 Paralympians Katie Kelly, Kate Doughty, Brant Garvey and Nic Beveridge and 240 Age Groupers, the Australians will make their presence felt over three frantic days of racing.
Jones, at 48, is about to celebrate 30 years as a triathlete next year and will contest the Age Group Sprint World Championship as well as her key role as the Guide for Rio Paralympic gold medallist Kelly.
Saturday will see the Championships major focus on the World Triathlon Series Grand Final – the culmination of the nine-stage Series featuring the cream of the ITU Elite males and females.
Australia’s latest excitement machine, Gentle, has produced a break out season and is sitting second on the 2017 WTS rankings behind breakaway leader Flora Duffy of Bermuda with evergreen Kiwi Andrea Hewitt in third.
And it’s no co-incidence that Gentle’s move to Jamie Turner’s group alongside fellow Commonwealth Games qualifier Charlotte McShane and Natalie Van Coevorden has seen the 25-year-old Gold Coaster go from strength to strength – highlighted by her first WTS victory in Montreal.
Gentle and break out boy Jake Birtwhistle - the sole male automatic Commonwealth Games nominee – who is sitting in 10th in the WTS, have been two of the success stories of 2017.
Add in some impressive performances from the likes of Under 23s Luke Willian and Emma Jeffcoat and stand-out Junior Matt Hauser and the Australian prospects are looking bright.
Willian is sitting in 19th place on the WTS, just one place behind our top placed Rio Olympian in Royle, who has spent 2017 building in confidence after his late start through injury.
Royle and fellow Rio team mate Bailie, who has also battled injury, will be out to show the selectors they are well and truly worthy of Games selection.
Jeffcoat will be joined in the under 23s by WA’s Jaz Hedgeland and ever present Sophie Malowiecki alongside Matt Roberts and Brandon Copeland in the men’s race.
WA girls Kira Hedgeland and Jessica Hedgeland add experience to the Juniors alongside Queensland’s Joanne Miller with Newcastle’s exciting teenager Lorcan Redmond joining Queensland’s Nicholas Free and Hauser in the Junior Men’s.
And just like its predecessors, Europe’s largest port has already thrown up a weather curve ball with dropping temperatures to 13 degrees and chilly 55kmp winds making even training just that little bit tougher for those braving the elements today.
In recent years Edmonton was cold, Chicago produced thunderstorms that delayed and changed races, Cozumel in Mexico was extremely hot last year and the final days of the Dutch summer are more like winter.
But the Australian contingent is prepared for whatever “Mother Nature” throws at the city when racing kicks off with the Paratriathlon and Junior women on Friday.
Saturday will see the Junior Men; Under 23 men and women and the Elite men and women.
While Sunday will see 118 Australians line up in the Age Group Sprint and 119 in the Age Group Standard Distance.