It’s already been an exciting week for Australian Commonwealth Games debutants Luke Willian and Gillian Backhouse and they are hoping Sunday will put the icing on their preparations at the ITU New Plymouth World Cup in New Zealand.
Willian and Backhouse, joined team mates Charlotte McShane, Ashleigh Gentle and Matt Hauser, for their Games outfitting session at Trinity College before flying to New Zealand.
“It’s really exciting and makes it real,” said 21-year-old Willian, who was like a kid in a candy store.
“The Games are only a couple of weeks away and all the gear is awesome. I have never experienced this before. A brand new experience which is great and only 474 athletes in the country have this. It’s quite rare and unique.”
But the pair have put their Games kitbags into the corner for the next few days while they get down to some serious business on Sunday.
Willian, who was a close-up third in last year’s Under 23 World Championship in Rotterdam, said he is looking forward to putting the finishing touches to his Games preparations in New Plymouth.
He will be joined by another eight Australians on the start line – Olympian Ryan Bailie, Oceania Championship winner Brandon Copeland, Marcel Walkington, Declan Wilson, Kye Wilde, Daniel Colman, Callum McClusky and Max Stapley.
Throw in US speedsters Kevin McDowell and Matthew McElroy, Canadian Games representatives Matthew Sharpe and Tyler Mislawchuk and the Sprint distance course is sure to see plenty of pace on.
McDowell and Sharpe were stand outs for the USA and Canada in last weekend’s Triathlon Australia Mixed Relay Invitational at Runaway Bay
For Willian it will be ideal to have another hit out after not being satisfied with his eighth place in Mooloolaba, which saw Games team mate Matt Hauser finish second to South African Richard Murray.
“I was a little bit disappointed with Mooloolaba so to have a chance to have another crack and give it a whirl and hopefully push up near the front, will be a good opportunity,” said Willian.
“I will get in and do some hard work; I just wasn’t where I wanted to be in Mooloolaba but with a bit more work, a taper and rest I’ll be ready for the Games.
“I’m going to use New Plymouth as another test; that’s the whole point of having a couple of hit outs so you can get your bad ones out of the way and (then) have your good ones.
“It will be important to get the little things right, not to make any mistakes and slow things down in your head and take that breath before doing it and maybe lose half-a-second (and get the process right) instead of losing 15 seconds in the penalty box.
“But with the other Australian boys like Ryan, Marcel, Brandon and Declan it will be a tough little race and a good race. New Plymouth is a cool place and I’m looking forward to it.”
While in the women’s field, another Games debutant 26-year-old Backhouse will be joined in the New Plymouth field by Abu Dhabi WTS bronze medallist Natalie Van Coevorden, Mooloolaba ITU World Cup winner Emma Jeffcoat and youngster Annabel White.
Internationally it will be a tougher field with Kiwi Games veteran Andrea Hewitt joined by a strong US contingent of Kirsten Kasper, Summer Cook, youngster Taylor Spivey, Tamara Gorman and Chelsea Burns and Japanese trio Ai Ueda, Yuko Takahashi and Juri Ide.
Backhouse had a hit out in the Mixed Relay last week as did Van Coevorden and Jeffcoat and US contingent Kasper, Burns and Gorman and Canadians Emy Legault and Amelie Kretz.
The 26-year-old has spent some time preparing for the Gold Coast under coach Stephen Moss.
She will return to the Coast on Monday to link up with Jamie Turner’s group in the final countdown to the Games.
Sunday will also see all-important Junior races for males and females for the Junior OTU Continental Championships; the Youth Olympic Games Qualification and the Junior National Series Race Four and final race of Series.
The top three in the Series will receive the Triathlon Australia Junior Bursary awards.
And with support from Triathlon Australia’s outfitter Scody our Junior athletes will be racing for the $10,000 Triathlon Australia Junior Bursary - on offer for the first three males and females in the overall Australian Junior Triathlon Series pointscore.
There is an overall purse of $5,500 for Juniors to use for international racing opportunities, with bursary money of $1500 for first; $750 for second and $500 for third for the top three males and females.
While Scody will also be offering the top six athletes sponsorships to a combined value of $4,500. $1,000 product allocation for first, $750 for second and $500 for third – both male and female.
Sunday 25 March 2018
Start Times (local time)
8:00am Junior Women
10:00am Junior Men
12:00pm Elite Women
2:00pm Elite Men