This year’s Tokyo Test Event in August will be the first chance to qualify for the 2020 Games when the Olympic city plays host to the world’s best triathletes after the conclusion of the WTS season.
For the Australians it will be the only opportunity to secure automatic nomination and comes between August 15-18 – a fortnight after the WTS Grand Final in Lausanne between August 29 and September 1.
The first Australian male and female to finish in the top three in the Test Event will book their automatic Triathlon Australia nominations to the Australian Olympic Committee for the 32nd Games in the Japanese capital and triathlon’s sixth appearance.
The remaining places on the Australia team will be discretionary.
Already Australia’s coaches and athletes have their sights set on the “Big Dance” –preparing their athletes for the “heat and humidity” that they know only Japan can throw up in August.
Triathlon Australia’s International Performance Centre Head Coach, Jamie Turner, has even had his two super-charges, 2018 WTS Grand Final winner and 2016 Olympian Ashleigh Gentle and 2018 WTS podium finisher and a girl most likely, Natalie Van Coevorden in and out of sauna baths as Olympic preparation hots up in their US training base this week.
Turner has been holed up in the aptly named Travellers Rest, just a transition away from the sports facilities at the Furman University in Greensville, South Carolina before they leave today (Wednesday) for Bermuda via Atlanta.
Before heading to the US the group spent three weeks in an altitude camp in Perisher Valley at the start of April, a first environmental altitude camp for Gentle.
“I really enjoyed my time up in Perisher. I’ve had limited altitude exposure, so it good to explore these things now, and see what type of response I’ve had,” said Gentle.
“It was a long and quite exhausting trip to Greensville, but I’m really glad we did that travel early and have had some time to try and get over the jet lag.
“This will be It’s my first trip to Bermuda and it’s also my first Olympic Distance triathlon of the year, so I’m anticipating some extra pain!
“I feel as though I’ve progressed in fitness over the last few weeks, so I’m looking forward to the challenge of the Bermuda course, and of course always excited to go to a new place!”
Bermuda will see four Australian men, training partners Jake Birtwhistle and 2016 Olympian Aaron Royle, his Rio team mate Ryan Fisher and Gold Coast rookie Brandon Copeland line up in the men’s race while Turner’s training partners Gentle and Van Coevorden will be the lone Australians in the women’s race which has attracted the Top Ten finishers from the opening WTS round in Abu Dhabi.
Birtwhistle, third overall in his best ever season on the WTS last year and one of Newcastle’s favourite triathlon sons in Royle have been in Mallorca, Spain since Abu Dhabi, which saw Birtwhistle 8th and Royle 36th, while Gentle was the best of the Aussie women in 10th.
“Everything we do now is based around having the athletes exposed to heat and humidity as we prepare for Japan next year,” said Turner.
“We haven’t had to handle these kinds of conditions for a while – probably not since Beijing and certainly not in London or Rio.
“Post Bermuda we will be back here (in Furman) where there is a good pool, great gym facilities and good trails around Asheville before we make our first trip into Japan and our pre-Olympic training venue as we get ready to race in Yokohama in the next WTS round on May 18 and 19.
“There is only one prize and that’s next year in Tokyo and what we are continuing to do now is to make those investments in the four years leading up to that.
“It will be important to get a real feel for Japan and the hot conditions and facilities as soon as we can.”
Birtwhistle, also Australia’s 2018 Commonwealth Games silver medallist and the spearhead of the victorious Mixed Relay team will travel from Europe.
“Since Abu Dhabi I have re-joined my training group and have been putting in some solid work in Mallorca,” said Birtwhistle.
“I have not been in Mallorca before, but the group has used it as a training base for many years so it’s nice to get here and experience it for myself.
“The location is great and the training we have put in has been just as good. I am really happy with where things are at currently and with Bermuda up next, I am excited to get back to racing at my best.”
Royle agreed saying; “It’s certainly a nice place to train, with the weather warming up in Europe and it’s made getting out and enjoying all the climbs and roads on offer that bit easier.
“After an injury at the end of last year I’ve been able to build back to full training since Abu Dhabi so I’m excited to hopefully see some improvements on my last race.
“There are important Olympic points are up for grabs so I will be aiming to put myself in the mix from the start.
“The Olympic Test Event is the aim for this year which isn’t until August, so we have been mixing some good quality work on camp whilst also allowing ourselves to continually build for the Test event.
“After Bermuda there’ll be a short turn around where we will go back to Mallorca for two weeks and then into the Yokohama WTS.
“I’m training with (coach) Joel Filliol so Mario Mola, Vincent Luis, Jake (Birtwhistle) and Katie Zaferes (who won Abu Dhabi).
“It’s really early days still with the group but I am enjoying it - they train extremely hard but also enjoy what they are doing which becomes infectious. Everyone in the group brings their owns strengths and that helps raise the bar for everyone.”
Meanwhile Gold Coast youngster Copeland will be lining up in only his third WTS round since 2017.
He has had an encouraging start to the Australian domestic season with his ffirst World Cup podium where he won silver behind Canadian rising star Tyler Mislawchuk in Mooloolaba before backing it up last weekend with the win at the Oceania Olympic distance championships at Moreton Bay.
“I’ve been preparing for Bermuda under coach Dan Atkins on the Gold Coast and I’ll be looking to put together a strong race in Bermuda with an improved bike leg this year,” said 22-year-old Copeland whose win in Moreton Bay secured his place on the Australian Under 23 World’s team.
“Hopefully I can put myself in the race at the start of the run and execute a strong all round race.
“I’m looking forward to building my season towards the U23 World Championships in Lausanne and fighting for some more strong World Cup and WTS performances throughout the season.”
Coach Atkins was full of praise for his young charge.
“Going into Bermuda has come off a big racing block which is a selection reward for his domestic racing,” said Atkins.
“To back up from Mooloolaba and to race really well to finish eighth in the New Plymouth and then seal his Under 23 Worlds spot by winning Moreton Bay Oceania was very pleasing indeed.
“Overall we just want Brandon in the race with the only expectation that he continues to learn how to play the game at the highest level.”
Men 13:06 local (2:06am – AEST 28 April) | Women 16:06 local ( 5:06am AEST 28 April)