The Australian men have performed a clean sweep of the podium at the 2020 Devonport OTU Oceania Cup and Championships, with Marcel Walkington powering home to Oceania gold ahead of fellow countrymen Luke Willian and Matt Roberts.
Producing one of his strongest performances to date, Walkington led a quality field through each of the three legs to walk away with the 2020 Oceania Sprint Championship title.
Walkington said that the result today will go a long way to setting him up for the next part of his season.
“It’s good to be back here in Devonport and come out with a decent race,” Walkington said.
“We really had a good group on the bike and we were pretty committed to working together and staying away.”
“We knew that we were holding our position, so I think that was enough for all of us to stay motivated and keep pushing to the run.”
Positioning himself amongst a strong lead pack out of the swim that included New Zealand’s Tayler Reid, Trent Thorpe and Liam Ward, as well as Luxembourg’s Stefan Zachaus, and fellow Australians Willian, and Roberts, Walkington was able to capitalise on the experience and strength of the lead pack to be well-positioned off the bike.
Exiting T2 with Willian, Roberts, Reid and Thorpe hot on his heels, Walkington put his foot down to make his break off the bike and gap his competition, sprinting home to gold. While Willian and Roberts held on to finish ahead of the Kiwis and make a clean sweep of the podium for Australia.
Brandon Copeland laid down an impressive run to chase down Reid and force a sprint finish, with him just edging in front to take 5th and Copeland in 6th. Luke Schofield ran into 8th overall to take out the U23 Oceania title, with Lorcan Redmond taking out the U23 silver in his first U23 race since aging up. New Zealand’s Liam Ward rounded out the U23 podium in 3rd.
Armidale’s Gillian Backhouse put together a standout race to take a valiant fourth place in the Elite Women’s field, with New Zealand’s Ainsley Thorpe completing the double to take out both the Elite and U23 Oceania titles.
Speaking to Triathlon Australia, Gillian Backhouse said that her performance today gives her a good base to build upon in the coming weeks and months.
“I’m pretty happy, it’s a solid start to the year and something to build on,” Backhouse said.
“Of course, I would’ve loved to have won it, and I was sort of fighting for a while there in the lead.”
“The two Kiwi girls, they…went out strong at the start of the run and I backed myself to run strongly towards the second half of the run, but they had it on me in the last half a lap and then Andrea came storming past with maybe 500 to go.”
“Next up for me is Mooloolaba World Cup and then after that New Plymouth, so I’ve got a few races in a row so hopefully I can build on what I did today in the next few weeks.”
Sitting amongst the leaders straight out of the water, Backhouse put down a formidable swim and bike to head out onto the run in front with a slight gap over the Kiwi girls Thorpe and Corbidge. Closing down the gap on the run, the New Zealanders made their move and reeled in Backhouse with less than a lap to go. Fighting hard, Backhouse looked set to take bronze, before three-time Olympian Andrea Hewitt stormed past with only 500m left on the run to take silver behind Thorpe.
Kira Hedgeland got her 2020 season off to a flying start, finishing 4th overall and claiming 2nd in the U23 Oceania Cup. 2019 Elite and U23 Oceania Sprint Champion, Jo Miller, rounded out the U23 podium, running home to 8th overall. While Charlotte McShane ran into 9th overall after a challenging 2019 season.
2020 Devonport OTU Sprint Oceania Cup & Oceania Championships
1st – Marcel Walkington
2nd – Luke Willian
3rd – Matt Roberts
1st – Luke Schofield
2nd – Lorcan Redmond
3rd – Liam Ward (NZL)
1st – Ainsley Thorpe (NZL)
2nd – Andrea Hewitt (NZL)
3rd – Sophie Corbidge (NZL)
1st – Ainsley Thorpe (NZL)
2nd – Kira Hedgeland
3rd – Joanne Miller
Photo Credit: Delly Carr | Triathlon Australia