For Jake Birtwhistle and Matt Hauser, Sunday’s return to the Gold Coast venue where they spearheaded Australia in a triumphant 2018 Commonwealth Games Mixed Relay, will bring back some golden memories.
The Broadwater Parklands is where the pair along with Ashleigh Gentle and Gillian Backhouse stormed home to take that gold medal ahead of an English team that included triathlon’s legendary brothers, Jonny and Alistair Brownlee and New Zealand.
Images of Tasmanian-born Birtwhistle, charging home down the finishing straight, flying the Boxing Kangaroo flag, was a spectacular sight.
Four years on and the pair will top the entry list for the Gold Coast Triathlon, doubling up as the first automatic nomination race for this year’s Commonwealth Games – where Birtwhistle would love nothing more than to turn his 2018 individual silver into Birmingham gold – and spearhead a successful Relay return.
Birtwhistle finished second in the individual race in 2018 behind South African Henri Schoeman with Hauser fourth and the third Aussie, Queensland’s Luke Willian, who will again line up in Sunday’s field, eighth.
They will be joined by next-gen group, including Kingscliff's Gold Coast-based Brandon Copeland, Luke Schofield (NSW), Luke Bate (WA), Callum McClusky (ACT) and Hauser's Gold-Coast-based training partners Matt Roberts and Mooloolaba Oceania Cup winner Lorcan Redmond.
And Birtwhistle, the Launceston local, who has been on a camp in Thredbo leading into Sunday’s race, is raring to go.
“Thredbo was the most consistent pre-season block of training I’ve ever done; I’m really happy with it,” said Birtwhistle, 27, and now approaching his fifth season with internationally acclaimed coach Joel Filliol, Australia’s new Podium Centre Head Coach.
“I had never been there before and it was a decent place to train; we definitely got in a very good block of work; I can see us going back there the same time next year too and it was good to mix things up a little bit.
“The 2018 Games was everything or almost everything for me; it was a very special event and Sunday will be a return to the same location although with a more straight forward, less technical course.
“This year the major focus is getting to Birmingham and it would be nice to go one better (in the individual) than I did on the Gold Coast and to come home with the individual gold.
“I’m really motivated to go there and improve on my 2018 performance and I’m really excited this year to get the season under way on the Gold Coast.
“In triathlon just about every top nation seems to be represented in the Commonwealth; there is only a handful of athletes missing who are usually up there as well.
“You have to look at it as the same as any World Series Race. It’s going to be tough and there will be plenty of challenges and hopefully we can get there and be as prepared as possible and as prepared as you need to be.”
Hauser, 23, too has returned from a two-week camp in Coolum on the Sunshine Coast after starting his year with an impressive win in the Devonport Oceania Cup Sprint race.
“Devonport was always about setting up the domestic season, leading into this race it’s very important with Commonwealth Games nomination,” said Hauser.
“A good way to set up my season before getting straight back into doing some work and I’ve managed to do that with a good training block with my squad in Coolum and I’m really looking forward to seeing how the legs carry me through on the weekend.
Hauser said the major thing on his mind while pounding through the daily training grind was getting ready “to compete with the world’s best.”
“No matter what competition I’m racing against it’s always in the back of my mind knowing that at the end of the year I’ve got the World Championships and I may have the opportunity to represent Australia at the Commonwealth Games (again) so I’ve got to be ready for that international competition.
“Executing the processes that I need to do to be competitive at that level and four years on from the 2018 Games I’d like to think I’ve got a lot more experience under my belt.
“I know how to take the lows with the highs...especially over the last couple of years I’ve been dealt both, so I think just a lot of experience knowing that I can be there and compete with the world’s best.
“In saying that I don’t want to lose that 2018 spirit I had; I don’t want to lose the young kid being new to the squad and that up and about energy and I still want to keep that moving forward.
“Sunday is a familiar course and while it doesn’t offer as much as the bike course did in the Commonwealth Games and chasing the Brownlees in that Relay, it will be telling us who has the leg speed at the end of the race.
“It’s going to be a fast five kilometer run at the end of the day that’s for sure.
“It’s great to see most of Australia’s best coming out to support the event knowing that automatic nomination spot is on the line. It will be great to see who comes out on top.”
Gold Coast Triathlon, Sunday, April 3
Elite Men: 6:15am
Elite Women: 6:17am
Event information and start lists here
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