Australia will send one of its most experienced Elite and Para teams ever to this year’s World Triathlon Championship Final, U23 and Paratriathlon World Championships in Abu Dhabi next month after a busy 2022 return to racing comes to a climax.
Triathlon Australia has named a 28-strong group of Elites, Under 23s and Para triathletes for the four-day Championships to be staged from November 23-26.
Amongst the nine Elites will be four Olympians with eight of the nine having represented Australia at a Commonwealth Games – six of them in Birmingham this year - at an average age of 24-and a-half.
Charlotte McShane, at 32 is the oldest member of the Elite team, lining up in her 11th World Championship Final, her eighth as an Elite, having started in her first Elite championship in 2014, after three years in the under 23s – one which netted her a gold medal in 2013.
Joining McShane will be her lifelong friend, Natalie Van Coevorden who has been alongside Charlotte in eight of those teams since the Under 23s in Auckland in 2012 with Matt Hauser on his first Elite Team and Jake Birtwhistle on his sixth Elite team leading the men’s team.
Van Coevorden, 29, also has an imposing record and also lines up in her 11th team – her seventh as an Elite and as Australia’s highest ranked female.
While the Para group sees four Paralympians and three Commonwealth Games representatives - headlined by two-time World and defending champion, Paralympic silver medallist and Ironman World Champion Lauren Parker spearheads an exciting Para triathlon team.
Parker has climbed just about every mountain in a stellar career and the title of three-time world champion awaits the 33-year-old from Newcastle who will again line up against US Paralympic champion Kendall Gretsch.
A Para team that also includes the 44-year-old from WA, Sally Pilbeam – a two-time World Champion from 2014 and 2015 who is back after two years in retirement – and 38-year-old four-time WPS Para gold medallist Justin Godfrey, with his eyes on Paris.
“It’s definitely an honour to be selected for the World Championship team again, on my 11th team and it is crazy to think that Natalie and I have been on this journey together for ten years (a third of my life!),” reflected McShane, relieved to be back racing after a long battle with injury.
“We’ve both been through a lot together and have shared special memories but also shared struggles, spending the first five years of our careers training together every day and whilst we are in different training environments now (and normally on opposite sides of the world!) we happily room together at races. It’s always very comforting to have someone around that I have shared so many experiences with - both the good and the bad!”
Van Coevorden also admitted that her and Charlotte’s testing times had made them much more resilient.
“We are both fighters and we know we still have a lot more to get out of ourselves in our careers. I know training with Charlotte for eight years, she loves the heat so I know she will be well prepared for Abu Dhabi also,” said Van Coevorden, who will line up in the Super League Final this weekend, before the WTS round in Bermuda leading into Abu Dhabi.
“We are currently prepping in Portugal for Abu Dhabi with a mixture of heat preparation work in the sauna.
“This time of year is just important to keep healthy, uninjured and prepare for these final races of the season.”
Alongside McShane and Van Coevorden will be Olympians Emma Jackson (London 2012) and Jaz Hedgeland (Tokyo 2020), and World Championship rookie Sophie Linn, who made her Games debut at this year’s Commonwealth Games.
Jackson with an extraordinary career that started out in 2007 at her first World Junior Championships at 16 – winning the Under 23 world title in 2010 before her Olympic debut in London two years later.
Ironically in a race won by Tokyo Olympic, World and Commonwealth champion, Bermuda’s Flora Duffy – who actually finished eighth to Emma Jackson as an Under 23 in 2010.
“Flora is an athlete who proves that longevity in the sport is possible. She came up through the Junior ranks and now is the Olympic and World Champion in her 30’s. It is inspiring to see an athlete continue to perform and be at the top of the sport for so long,” said Jackson.
“For me 2022 is about getting back to top level racing and trying to put my training into a performance.
“The last few years have been a bit of a struggle with many injury setbacks and not performing the way I want to in racing so I want to use this year to get back some belief in myself so I am ready for 2023 and what may lay ahead.
“I am grateful for another opportunity to race in the Green and Gold at a World Championships.”
The 31-year-old will be lining up in her 13th World Championships – her eighth as an Elite – and in stark contrast to Elite debutant Linn selected on her first Elite team after finishing ninth as an Under 23 on the Gold Coast in 2018.
Linn is emerging as a bright new star with her hard fought fifth placing at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games – the best by an Australian woman – who also won bronze in the Mixed Relay in Birmingham.
Also in the Elite ranks at a World Championships Series Final for the first time will be Olympian and two-time Commonwealth Games representative and a bronze medallist, Matt Hauser, who is also Super League bound in Neom.
The 24-year-old Hauser, Australia’s highest ranked Elite in 2022 (currently sitting in 10th place on the leader board), has attended five World Championship Grand Finals – three as a Junior and two as an Under 23 – winning the Junior crown in 2017 and finishing third in the under 23s last year in Edmonton.
Hauser will be joined on the men’s elite team by his 27-year-old Olympic and Commonwealth Games teammate Jake Birtwhistle and his 25-year-old 2018 Commonwealth Games teammate Luke Willian.
Birtwhistle, the 2015 Under 23 world champion in Chicago, will be representing Australia in his ninth team and his sixth as an Elite and he and Willian will also line up in the Noosa Triathlon on Sunday.
Birmingham debutant Brandon Copeland, 26, will make up the men’s team at his second Elite World’s after making his debut in Edmonton last year.
In the U23 Team, NSW’s Matilda Offord will be looking to make an impact after her World Triathlon Series Debut in Montreal, alongside QLD teammates Ellie Hoitink and Oscar Dart while Lorcan Redmond, who earned an automatic spot on the team in Mooloolaba in March, will not line up in Abu Dhabi.
Australian Team for World Triathlon Championships Series Final, Abu Dhabi, November 23-27:
Natalie Van Coevorden (NSW), Charlotte McShane (VIC), Jaz Hedgeland (WA), Sophie Linn (SA), Emma Box (nee Jackson) (QLD), Matt Hauser (QLD), Brandon Copeland (NSW), Jake Birtwhistle (TAS), Luke Willian (QLD)
Matilda Offord (NSW), Ellie Hoitink (QLD), Luke Bate (NSW), Oscar Dart (QLD)
Lauren Parker (NSW, PTWC), Sara Tait (PTWC), Anu Francis (SA, PTS2), Sally Pilbeam (WA, PTS4), Nic Beveridge (QLD, PTWC), Glen Jarvis (PTS2), Justin Godfrey (VIC, PTS3), Liam Twomey (VIC, PTS4), Jeremy Peacock (VIC, PTS4), David Bryant (WA, PTS5), Jonathan Goerlach (NSW, PTVI) & Guide Harry Wiles, Jack Howell (VIC, PTS5), Sam Harding (ACT, PTVI) & Guide Luke Harvey (QLD).
^Box, Birtwhistle, Howell and Harding’s starts are pending the final World Triathlon Start lists ahead of the WTCS and World Championships in November.