Charlotte McShane will start her Gold Coast Commonwealth Games campaign on a high after returning from the AIS “altitude house” for her first hit out of the year in Saturday’s 2018 Glenelg OTU Sprint Triathlon Oceania Cup.
The 27-year-old Scottish-born Wollongong-based triathlete from Bairnsdale is one of six Commonwealth Games athletes who will make their 2018 race debuts in South Australia this weekend.
McShane will be joined in the women’s field by Australian Games team mate, Armidale’s QAS athlete, Gillian Backhouse and New Zealand Gold Coast bound pair, triple Olympian Andrea Hewitt and rising star Nicole Van Der Kaay over the sprint course (750m swim, 19km bike and 5.2km run).
The men’s field will be spearheaded by Kiwi Games team pair Ryan Sissons and Tayler Reid and a host of emerging young Australians, including Brandon Copeland, Kye Wylde and Dan Coleman, Canada’s Brennen Smith and Ben Shaw from Ireland.
Saturday will also feature the cream of Australia’s Under 23s, Juniors and Youth in their Australian Junior Series with Sunday featuring the Open and Age group, Australian Junior Mixed Team championships, OTU Triathlon Mixed Teams Relay championships.
The Mixed Teams Relay – the event won by an Australian team that included McShane, at last year’s World Championships in Hamburg and included in the Commonwealth Games for the second time this year and on debut at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
For McShane, a pre and post camp at the AIS in Canberra with the Wollongong Wizards and Gold Coast National Performance groups, has set her up for her first major Games assault.
The former Under 23 ITU World Champion, who was third in the 2016 ITU Grand Final in Cozumel, and a key member of Australia’s ITU World Teams Relay Championship, is itching to get started.
She spent 20 nights in January sleeping at 3000m above sea level in the specially designed AIS Altitude House and training at just 500m above sea level in Canberra.
“I have had a lot of experience training at altitude at Falls Creek and this too was a different experience and although you don’t always feel great straight away it does start to kick in after a couple of weeks,” said McShane, who has been back training for several months, building up a bigger base than usual.
“I started back earlier than normal with a big pre-Christmas block in Canberra and then this past month.
“It couldn’t have been better, especially with all the providers on offer at the AIS, everything was at our fingertips – a real one-stop shop and we get so well looked after – a great way to start the year.
“But being back in Wollongong now has been nice and although it was only a last minute decision to race in Glenelg I’m itching to get started and get a race under my belt.
“I’m not expecting anything major as we’ve only really just started our intensity work and I’m going to concentrate on some specific things in my race to get the year started and then looking forward to racing the relay.
“Every chance you get to race the relays you have to take with both hands – you can always learn something and they will be just as important as the individual races with gold medals up for grabs at both the Commonwealth and Olympic Games.”
Triathlon Australia International Performance Coach Jamie Turner said the AIS would leave its fingerprints all over the success of all those athletes who were part of the camp when they embarked on the international stage as the season progressed.
“There is no doubt this has been the best ‘return to training period and early season preparation’ in my coaching experience,” said Turner.
“The facilities and the people at the AIS make it and to have so many professionals under one roof, on the pool deck as an example working towards a common goal has been a real eye-opener.
“Charlotte has done a great job and I know she is looking forward to racing both individually and in the relay – the Teams Relay will be a key event for us – she has certainly embraced it after being part of the Australian team that won the World Championship.
“She wants to be part of it again and embrace it moving forward.”
At 30, Kiwi dual Olympian Sissons and 22-year-old rising star Reid along with 31-year-old Rio Olympian and 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games representative Tony Dodds are the pick of a strong NZ contingent.
There is also enormous depth in the Under 23, Junior and Youth events with 2017 World Championship Junior representatives Lorcan Redmond (NSW) and Jessica Claxton (WA) among the stand outs.
The pair shone at the opening round of the Junior Series on the Gold Coast last month.
Claxton, who had her Year 12 exams to complete, even surprised herself taking out the Junior Women’s category with the baby of this year’s World Championships Team taking the Overall Junior Pointscore on 216.00 pts with three wins from six starts. South Australia’s consistent Charlotte Derbyshire was second on 158pts with Gizelde (ACT/South Africa) Strauss third on 157.25.
While Newcastle’s outstanding Junior and former Youth Champion Redmond has himself returned to school this year to start his Year 12 final year at Newcastle Grammar.
Redmond won the Race Weekend on 215.75 points from New South Welshman Luke Schofield and Luke Bate.
The Teams Relay events will see Australia field - 11 Elite/Under 23 teams; 14 ITU Junior Teams; 10 Youth A and three Youth B teams with three teams from New Zealand in the Elite Race including their Commonwealth Games selections.
Triathlon Australia’s Performance Programs Manager Keith Flory said: “The evolution of the Mixed Relay is continuing at pace following last year’s announcement of it being included in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“The Elite race, which is the OTU Continental Championships, is a critical factor for athletes ongoing preparation for both the Commonwealth Games in April and the 2020 Olympics.
“It provides current Mixed Relay World Champion Charlotte McShane with a further opportunity to compete against some of the world’s best and also continue learning about this evolving and exciting race.”