Tokyo Olympian Matt Hauser has won a well deserved bronze medal after leading yesterday’s Under 23 World Triathlon Championship into the final stages of the run in Edmonton on a day the Australian Team left everything out there.
The 23-year-old from Hervey Bay, who has made his training base on Queensland’s Gold Coast, attempted to steal the title straight off the 40km bike leg, going to the lead, only to be run down in the closing two kilometres by Hungarian wonder boy Csongor Lehmann and Germany’s Tim Hellwig.
Hauser, who finished 24th in his Olympic debut wasn’t going to die wondering as he put it all on the line at the World Championship Finals day which also saw:
GOLD COAST Performance Centre (GCPC) training partner Kira Hedgeland finish with an agonisingly close-up fourth in her Under 23 World Title tilt;
NSW’s Natalie Van Coevorden produce another strong performance for 12th in the hotly contested Elite Women’s final on her remarkable 10th Australian Team and;
GCPC’s Brandon Copeland with a rewarding 13th in his Elite Men’s final debut.
The closing stages of the Under 23 men’s race saw a perfectly timed finish from Lehmann with the Hungarian going one better than his 2019 silver to win the U23 World crown after a three-way battle for the podium places for much of the run.
Once Lehmann made the decisive move there was no reply Hellwig and Hauser who had given their all on a demanding course to win the silver and bronze with Australia’s other representative Luke Schofield in 30th place.
Hauser was right there with a big group coming into T1 together and it was the Australian out in front over the opening kilometre of the 40km bike with a group of eleven riders and he then pushed the pace straight out of T2 and took the race on, eager to sign off from the U23 category in style.
But Lehmann and Hellwig broke their pack with the front-running Hauser in their sights but as hard as he tried the brave Gold Coaster had no answers with Hungary’s 2019 silver medallist going one better this time ahead of Hellwig and Hauser.
Australian men have had a storied history in the World Under 23s with Tokyo (and Rio) Olympian Aaron Royle and Jake Birtwhistle won winning the titles in 2012 and 2015 respectively, 2008 Olympian Brad Kahlefeldt the first winner in 2002 with Luke Willian (third in 2017) and Declan Wilson (third in 2013) among the other podium finishers.
Full results can be found here.
And if anyone deserved a podium it was Kira Hedgeland in the Under 23 women’s race that saw her chance for a medal disappear with just one kilometre to go in the run, admitting “that really hurt” after arriving into Edmonton determined for a placing.
“I came here determined for a podium place but I can say I am really proud of all three disciplines and I gave it everything I had,” said Hedgeland after a race that saw Frenchwoman Emma Lombardi win the gold from Alberte Kjaer Pedersen (Denmark) and Annika Koch (Germany).
“But I’m in this sport for the long haul – the journey continues.”
The women’s Elite race saw Van Coevorden wrap up her season with a solid 12th placing (giving her an encouraging 14th overall in the WTCS); Kelly Ann Perkins 19th (48th overall) Jaz Hedgeland 28th and Emma Jackson (29th/40th in the WTCS).
Van Coevorden certainly gave herself every chance after a strong swim in a race that saw Olympic champion Flora Duffy create history, finishing third to USA’s Taylor Knibb and Frenchwoman Leonie Periault, enough to also take out the WTC Series title for a record equalling third time.
“I finally put myself in the race with one of my best swims and a solid bike,” said Van Coevorden, who wasn’t as happy with her run.
“But some good steps forward both physically and mentally for me and it’s now on to the French GP races and the new WTCS season starting in Hamburg..I’m excited to keep working and progressing over these next few races.”
For Copeland it was his first World Championship Elite Finals race and he earned the rewards for the hard yards on training track under GCPC head coach Dan Atkins with his 13th place (26th in the WTCS) ahead of New Zealand’s Olympic bronze medallist Hayden Wilde (14th) and Royle (15th/19th in the WTCS) and Birtwhistle (23rd/17th in the WTCS).
“I’m absolutely over the moon with that performance today,” said Copeland after Norway’s Olympic champion Kristian Blummenfelt stormed home to win and wrap up the World Championship Series crown.
“It was great to be in the mix and just loved going toe-to-toe with the best in the world - I’m sure I’ll be better for the experience as well.
“I’m really looking forward to having a few more opportunities on the WTCS circuit this year as well.”
Copeland admitted the race was really tough over a course that ensured the strongest athletes would prevail with Blummenfelt taking the honours from Marten Van Riel (Belgium) and Leo Bergere (France).
“I didn’t quite have the spark on the run to go with the front group after a tough ride debut I’m very proud of how I hung in and finished with a result that reflected my performance,” said Copeland who is now off to France to race in the French Grand Prix Series before he finishes the year with WTCS races in Hamburg, Bermuda and Abu Dhabi.
“I’m very excited to continue honing my race craft over this period. Today was a great step in the right direction and I’m stoked - but I’m already looking to cracking the top 10 later this year,” said Copeland.
“The whole GCPC crew is such a great support team - with Kira having an amazing race finishing 4th and Matt 3rd in their respective under 23 races and Jaz Hedgeland lining up despite a few rough months.
“I’m very privileged to call this my training group and I’m so proud of all these guys performances, as well as the rest of the team back home, both athletes and support staff as these results wouldn’t be possible without the whole team.
“Coach Dan Atkins has created a great team around us all and I’m proud to represent the GCPC as well as Triathlon Australia.”