Inspirational Paralympic silver medallist Lauren Parker will be joined by Tokyo Olympians Aaron Royle and Matt Hauser in a nine-strong Australian contingent on the final start lines of what has been a hectic year of racing in Abu Dhabi this weekend.
Parker will headline a field of six as she chases the successful defence of her 2019 PTWC World Championship crown and without US Paralympic champion Kendall Gretsch, the woman who snatched the gold from Parker with a last gasp push in Tokyo.
(Gretsch, who has the distinction of winning gold in both Winter (two) and Summer Paralympics is now preparing for the 2022 Beijing Paralympics in Nordic Skiing.)
But Parker will be joined by four other Tokyo Paralympians including Spain’s bronze medallist Eva Maria Moral Pedrero.
Since Tokyo, Parker has been a dominant force on an eventful North American 70.3 Ironman circuit which saw her survive a car accident and race with third degree burns on her toes.
Defending her 2019 crown would be a deserved finale for Parker as she prepares to tackle the Yas Marina Formula 1 circuit for the World Triathlon Para Championships.
The paras will be racing the same circuit as the elites only some hours earlier, with the World Championships to be contested over the sprint distance course - 750m swim, 20km bike (4 x4.8km laps on part of the Circuit Formula 1 Track) before the 5km run over three laps to finish in front of the Marina - and in oppressive weather conditions similar to what they experienced this summer in Tokyo.
Australia’s elite representation in the men’s race will see two-time Olympian Royle and his Tokyo teammate Hauser joined by Gold Coast training partner Brandon Copeland and Marcel Walkington while Australia’s top ranked female Natalie Van Coevorden will be joined by three teammates in Kira Hedgeland, London Olympian Emma Jackson and Charlotte McShane in the red-hot women’s field.
The elite course for the second leg of the 2021-22 World Triathlon Championship Series will also cover the sprint distance of a 750m swim in front of the Viceroy Hotel followed by a 20km bike (5x4km laps) through the Yas Marina while riding part of the Circuit Formula 1 Track and finishing with a 5km run consisting of 2x2.5km laps also finishing in front of the Marina.
Walkington and Copeland were the best performed of the Australians in the opening round in Hamburg, finishing 11th and 14th respectively in a field without Olympic and world champion Kristian Blummenfelt that sees Germany’s Hamburg conqueror Tim Hellwig on top of the rankings.
But it’s a field that also includes three Olympic medallists from Tokyo – individual bronze medallist, New Zealand’s Hayden Wilde; US Mixed Relay silver medallist Morgan Pearson and the experienced Frenchman Vincent Luis (bronze in the Mixed Relay) who will celebrate his 100th World Series race.
Hauser, a noted sprint specialist, is in fine form after winning bronze in the post Olympic Under 23 World Championship in Edmonton.
Hellwig, Luis, Jelle Geens (Belgium), Joao Silva (Portugal), and Casper Stornes (Norway) all know what it is to be on top of a World Triathlon Championship Series podium.
Meanwhile the stacked women’s field will see the four Australians contending with Bermuda’s newly crowned Tokyo Olympic champion Flora Duffy amongst five Games medallists.
Duffy will headline her fellow Tokyo medallists, Georgia Taylor Brown (GBR, silver individual race & gold Mixed Relay); Jessica Learmonth (GBR, gold Mixed Relay); Taylor Knibb (USA, silver Mixed Relay) & Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA, bronze Mixed Relay).
Bermuda’s golden girl is not only the Olympic champion and the 2021 World Champion, she also has 11 World Triathlon Championship Series under her belt, but one thing Duffy is yet to accomplish is a victory in Abu Dhabi.
Laura Lindemann (GER) will parade the golden number for the first time in her WTCS career as she is leading the Maurice Lacroix World Triathlon Championship Series rankings after her victory in Hamburg while only Rachel Klamer (NED) knows what it is to win in Abu Dhabi.
Jackson and McShane will be coming off the World Triathlon Cup in Tongyeong which saw Jackson fourth and McShane 12th in a race won by Beth Potter, one of an eight-strong British contingent led by Taylor-Brown, Learmonth, Vicky Holland, Non Stanford, Lucy Charles Barclay, Sophie Coldwell and Sian Rainsley.