Swimming in a freezing Canberra lake in the middle of winter is certainly not everyone’s first choice for a training session even for the toughest of triathletes.
It was at the height of the pandemic and Canberra’s indoor pools were closed so Lake Burley Griffin was Callum McClusky’s only option.
The 25-year-old had started training with Melbourne-based coach Danielle Stefano midway through 2019 but they spent most of 2020 and 2021 apart due to the COVID restrictions and lockdowns, so training was done remotely with Stefano in Melbourne and McClusky in Canberra.
“Cal was one of the most affected high-performance athletes through that period with no access to a pool for a year, so he spent that time swimming in Lake Burley Griffin,” recalled Stefano in the countdown to Saturday’s World Triathlon Championship Series race in Yokohama and McClusky’s Olympic Distance Series debut.
“He lasted until it got to 10 degrees in the water, swimming with gloves and booties and then had to shut up shop over winter.”
McClusky survived and he is one of five elite Australian men lining up when the World Triathlon Championship Series kick-starts again in Japan.
With the international borders still closed in 2021 and difficulties with border restrictions travelling nationally to races, Cal began working full time alongside training full time to utilise that period to set himself up financially to get to races once the borders opened up again,” said Stefano.
“So 2022 was a year for Cal to work on technique and continually build back into the demands of international competition. We saw glimpses of what he was capable of but the consistency wasn't there.”
But this year, under Steffano’s guidance they have managed to put together a great support team around McClusky with South Melbourne Physio, Cate Gifford (Strength & Conditioning) and Alan McCubbin (Dietitian).
The investment and support of this team has given McClusky a new-found confidence in himself and his training and Stefano has seen that translate into some positive signs in his domestic season so far.
A win in the Oceania Triathlon Cup in Wanaka, 7th in Taupo, second to Birtwhistle in Devonport, and an 8th place finish in the World Cup in New Plymouth.
“He's confident, happy and just doing the basics really well,” said Steffano.
“Yokohama is an opportunity for him to learn and be exposed to that level of competition and to then build from race to race and apply those learnings throughout the season.”
McClusky, who was disqualified in his WTCS debut in Montreal last year, knows it will be a great opportunity to gain more experience at this elite level.
“I want to be competitive throughout the race with a big focus on having a good swim/bike to help play to my strengths on the run,” said McClusky, who is also studying Economics and Finance at Deakin University in Melbourne.
“My first WTCS result in Montreal was obviously very disappointing and it highlighted some areas of my racing which I needed to work on.
“After that race, I went back to the drawing board and worked hard on my weaknesses. I’m grateful that I got the opportunity to race in Yokohama to redeem myself this weekend.
“Preparation for Yokohama has been very smooth. I’ve had a solid six weeks since my last race at the New Plymouth World Cup, so I’ve been able to put together some quality training in Melbourne in preparation for Yokohama. “I’ve had a great start to the domestic season so I’m looking to continue this form internationally.”
McClusky’s preparation for Yokohama has been smoother than Australian team-mate Matt Hauser, who spent three weeks sidelined with a debilitating flu virus.
“The last couple of months have been up and down that’s for sure, after planning on racing the New Plymouth World Cup I was forced out due to an extended period of sickness post Abu Dhabi,” said Hauser, before he left for Yokohama.
“I was out of action for about three weeks and have since been trying to find my groove. I’m starting to see some good signs of fitness in the last couple of weeks so I'm just looking forward to getting out and competing in Yokohama.
“Hopefully putting myself in the mix and seeing what happens. Yokohama was the fire-starter for me last year, and it's great to be back this year in the lead up to the rest of the season and the Paris Test event.”
Hauser's Coach Dan Atkins has had to convince his charge to ease his way back, with bigger fish to fry.
"Cardiovascularly we’ve had to be really careful to monitor Matt's heart rate variability and he’s really brought into that side of the training," said Atkins, Triathlon Australia's Head Coach at the Queensland Performance Centre.
"Matt is becoming a real student of the sport and he wants to get the best out of himself. He works best when he understands what he’s doing and when there’s a real well thought out process that we’ve tried to be a little bit more thoughtful with, that he gets confidence from.
"When I say to him no it’s alright let’s go easy today as opposed to we have to go harder, I don’t necessarily have to tell him to ever go harder because he pushes himself really well. "I just want him to be right for (the test event) in August so I’ve been more conservative with our planning post his sickness so he can stay healthy."
The 2023 World Triathlon Olympic Games Test Event, the first automatic nomination race, will be staged over August 17-20.
McClusky and Hauser will be joined on the men’s start line by Jake Birtwhistle, Luke Willian and Brandon Copeland.
While Sophie Linn, Natalie Van Coevorden, and the Hedgeland sisters, Jaz and Kira, make up strong Aussie contingent in the women’s field.
Catch all the action live on TriathlonLive.tv starting at 10:46 AM AEST for the women's race and 1:36 PM AEST for the men's race.
Women’s WTCS YokohamaSaturday 13 May, 10:46 AM AEST
Start List: Elite Women
Men’s WTCS YokohamaSaturday 13 May, 1:36 PM AEST
Start List: Elite Men
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