The Gold Coast has attracted triathletes young and old from all over Australia this weekend who will take to the flat and fast Robina course for two full-on days of racing at the Gatorade Queensland Tri Series.
The Series is sold out with 1700 entries for events including the Australian Paratriathlon Championships, round two of the Australian Junior Triathlon Series and the Australian Age Group Championships and World Championship qualifying races.
It is the start of an exciting two years for the triathlon community on the Gold Coast that will again welcome the World Triathlon Series/World Paratriathlon (April 8,9), the Commonwealth Games (April 2018) and the WTS Grand Final (September 2018).
Included in the start lists will be Australia’s first Paratriathlon gold medallist Katie Kelly and her “golden guide” – US-based 2000 Olympic silver medallist and ITU Hall of Famer Michellie Jones – who returns to the Coast.
They will join fellow Rio paratriathlon team mates Bill Chaffey, Nic Beveridge and Brant Garvey as they strut their stuff in a sport that captured the imagination of the Rio crowds and will make its debut at next year’s Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
Gold Coasters Chaffey (fourth in Rio) and Beveridge, Adelaide’s Scott Crowley and Brisbane’s World Championship silver medallist Emily Tapp all race in the PT1 (wheelchair) category included in the Commonwealth Games.
Action gets underway on Saturday with the Open Water swimming events from 10am followed by the innovative double rounds of super sprints for Youth, Junior, Under 23s and Opens from 1pm.
Sunday morning from 6:30am will see the Kool Kids and Enticer events followed by the Wave Starts for Age Groupers, some looking to represent at this year’s World Championships in the Netherlands and the National Paratriathlon Championships.
The Commonwealth Games will also take focus for some of Australia’s rising stars as well as the PT1 (wheelchair) paratriathletes with the category included in the 2018 Commonwealth Games program on the Gold Coast.
The open women’s entries will be spearheaded by Northern Ireland’s two-time Olympian Aileen Reid who will face the likes of Australia’s Under 23 world championship silver medallist and World Duathlon Champion Gillian Backhouse and Under 23s Jaz Hedgeland, Laura Cook and Grace Hoitink.
Backhouse will look to put pressure on in her quest for Commonwealth Games selection, particularly over the Sprint Distance and following the retirement of Olympic medallists Emma Moffatt and Erin Densham after last year’s Rio Olympics.
In the men’s ranks, local Under 23 boys Matt Roberts, Dan Coleman and Jack Van Stekelenberg will be amongst a host of rising stars to watch in the countdown to future National selection.
Kelly and Jones are making the Gold Coast their Australian Training base under coach Dan Atkins, Triathlon Australia’s newly appointed Head Coach Paratriathlon / Elite Under 23 Development Program, based out of the AIS at Pizzey Park.
They have been training under Atkins all week and will both contest Saturday’s 1500m swim and Sunday’s National Championship.
Atkins will continue to oversee a host of his emerging talent, which include the Hedgeland sisters, Jaz and younger sister Kira as well as the ever expanding Paratriathlon program.
“It is an exciting time for all of us and to have the likes of Katie and Michellie integrating into our squad is a massive benefit for all,” said Atkins.
“Katie is a champ and I’m thrilled to undertake the new role and have Katie so involved – exciting times.
“I know from talking to Michellie also, she has been very impressed with our program and will look to come back over the next couple of months.
“It is great to have someone of her ilk in the sport so ready to work with the group.”
Atkins said this weekend’s racing will be “form finders” for most of his squad who are gearing up for a busy year domestically and internationally.
“The key to this weekend will be handling and preparing to handle the heat,” said Atkins.
“It will be important for all athletes to increase their electrolyte intake; get plenty of rest in the lead up to their races’; increase their carbohydrate and protein and drink plenty of cold water in the lead up.”
Atkins said there will be ice baths waiting his athletes when they cross the finish line.