Trans Tasman triathlon rivalry will re-ignite in Port Douglas this Saturday with the cream of Australia and New Zealand triathletes going head-to-head in the 2021 Oceania Triathlon Cup race.
Port Douglas has become the “home away from home” for the region’s triathletes and paratriathletes throughout the 2021 triathlon season in the build up to this year’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
Many have set up base camp in the Cairns-Port Douglas stretch with the Australians training out of the James Cook University.
And Saturday morning’s 8am start at Four Mile Beach for the Elite Men’s race is sure to be on from the get go and featuring top seeds, Australia’s World and Commonwealth Games Mixed Relay champion, Matthew Hauser and Rio Olympian Ryan Fisher leading the Australian charge with New Zealand’s Olympic team nomination Tayler Reid - the pick of the Kiwis.
Hauser is sure to relish the sprint course of 750m swim, 20km bike and five kilometre run with the 23-year-old Gold Coaster running into good form off the back of his recent win in the Oceania “Super Sprint” Cup on the Gold Coast and his second place in the Oceania Championships at Port Douglas a fortnight ago, where Reid finished third.
The Australian Elite Women’s contingent will see, Emma Jeffcoat and Charlotte McShane leading the way in the green and gold, alongside inform Kira Hedgeland, former champion surf Ironwoman Kelly-Ann Perkins, who is having her best season since transitioning into triathlon and Commonwealth Games Mixed Relay gold medallist Gillian Backhouse.
Perkins and Hedgeland were second and third at the last Port Douglas outing ahead of the Kiwis, Tokyo nominated athletes Ainsley Thorpe and Nicole Van Der Kaay who were fourth and fifth respectively.
While the Australian nominations for Tokyo are set to be announced next week, both Australia and New Zealand are expected to be amongst the leading nations, particularly in the Mixed Teams Relay – the new event on the Olympic program.
Australia, with Hauser and pre-selected Tokyo triathletes Jake Birtwhistle were part of the Australian team that won the Mixed Relay at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, from England and New Zealand.
A New Zealand team that also included Reid and Van der Kaay - crucial members of the Kiwi outfit.
Other Australians sure to be in the mix will be Brandon Copeland, Luke Bate and Matthew Roberts, who was second to Hauser in the Runaway Bay “Super Sprint” final.
And in what will be a real bonus for Saturday’s racing schedule the majority of Australia’s Paralympic hopefuls will also take to the Port Douglas course in one of their final hit outs before the Paralympic Games (August 25-September 5).
The classifications will be split into two groups for the Port Douglas Sprint with the PTVI and the PT2-5 categories set to start at 9.30am, followed by the PTWC females at 9.45am.
Defending vision impaired Paralympic champion from Rio Katie Kelly will be joined by Wheelchair world champions Emily Tapp and Lauren Parker while WA’s David Bryant (PTS5) and vision impaired athlete Jonathan Goerlach will be out to execute their skills off the recent Cairns-based training camp.
Others to watch will be Commonwealth Games representative Sara Tait (PTWC), as well as promising men Jeremy Peacock (PTS3) and Jack Howell (TWD) who will be looking for much sort after race experience.
The Australian Paralympic team is expected to be finalised by July 11, with one final, pre-Games hit out available on the Gold Coast on July 25.
2021 Oceania Triathlon Cup, Port Douglas