The rising stars of Australian triathlon will kick start this weekend’s 30th Anniversary of the Devonport Triathlon on Saturday.
While the Olympians – led by 2012 London team mates Courtney Atkinson and Brendan Sexton, will headline the Elite races, the next generation will be going all out in the Junior and Youth categories to make names for themselves in the Triathlon Australia National Junior Championship and final round of the Australian Junior Triathlon Series.
The cream of the country’s juniors will take to the start line, including Series leader Matt Hauser from Hervey Bay and fellow Queenslanders Matt Roberts, Luke Willian and Brandon Copeland while the women’s field will be led by 2014 runner-up Kira Hedgeland, series leader Sophie Malowiecki, Youth Olympic Games (YOG) gold medallist Brittany Dutton and Dimi Coventry - both Queenslanders.
The Australian Junior Series started before Christmas at Runaway Bay on the Gold Coast before heading to Penrith for the Oceania Junior Championships in January with Hauser (33) leading the men and Malowiecki (29) ahead in the women’s.
One name missing from the men’s field will be ITU World Junior bronze medallist Calvin Quirk, who is sitting in second in the pointscore (26) chase ahead of Roberts (23), New Zealand’s YOG silver medallist Daniel Hoy (16) and Copeland (15).
Quirk suffered a greenstick fracture to his elbow a fortnight ago following a cycling accident, ruling him out of the final race on the Junior calendar.
Willian has also been in good form outside the Series, finishing second in the last two Elite Oceania Cup races in New Zealand in Kinloch and Takapuna and will be out to push had for a podium place and to impress the National selectors.
“It’s a real shame to lose Calvin, he’s such a class act and while it takes a standout performer out of the race, the depth in this men’s field is still one of the strongest we’ve had in recent times,” said Craig Redman, Triathlon Australia’s National Manager for High Performance Pathway.
“Matt Hauser has beaten all-comers this summer while Matt Roberts and Brandon Copeland have also caught the eye, and Luke Willian is recapturing the form that has also made him one to watch.
“Throw in the likes of Christian Wilson who is also on the comeback trail and the Tassie boys led by Fraser Lyon from Devonport and it adds some lively pieces to the puzzle. - rest assured it will be a quick swim."
Malowiecki (29) leads Hedgeland (22) and Coventry (20) in the women’s pointscore that sees Dutton appearing for the first time in the Series – although she did produce an outstanding performance to beat Canada’s Commonwealth Games silver medallist Kirsten Sweetland in the Queensland Gatorade Series last weekend.
Malowiecki, who is gunning for a third World Championship team, opened her season with an undefeated five-race sequence at the Race Weekend on the Gold Coast, without Hedgeland & Dutton breathing down her neck.
It was Hedgeland, who finished second in the Series to big sister Jaz last year, who returned to Penrith to strike her form and rack up her first win of the season.
For athletes like Hauser, Willian and Malowiecki – a win in Devonport will also mean automatic selection on the Australian team for this year’s ITU World Championships in Chicago – as they have also met the National Performance Standards time trial selection criteria.