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From TriActive to repping the Green and Gold

Tri Active is Triathlon Australia’s entry level adult participation program, designed to engage complete beginners and give them some basic training to be able to complete their first Enticer / Super Sprint event. 

However in April 2019, when Triathlon Australia selected the team to represent us at the 2019 International Triathlon Union Age Group Triathlon World Championships, being held in Lausanne, Switzerland, there was one name that not many people would have expected.   

Rebecca van Gelder, had qualified for the 25 - 29 Female Sprint Distance Triathlon! 

And why was this such an achievement?  

Rebecca had only started her triathlon journey in March 2018, taking part in the first pilot TriActive program held in NSW, conducted by Sydney Triathlon Group.  

We sat down with Rebecca and asked her a few questions to get all the insight into her journey.

Why did you sign up to the TriActive program in the first place?

I remember thinking that triathlon was such a pipe dream sort of sport and I could never do something so extreme. Fast forward, and a work colleague of mine had seen the advertisement for the Tri Active program. I convinced one of my friends to join us and we all signed up.
What did you like about the program?

The program was really good in that we were surrounded by experienced triathletes, who were there to support us throughout. They were happy to answer all our silly questions (even over email). The sessions covered swimming technique and cycling and the coach gave us some tips on how to improve our running.

One of the best sessions was the open water swim. All 5 of us in the program were very anxious about swimming in the open water. After that we requested a second open water swim and they changed around some of the sessions to fit it in, which I found very helpful.

Tell us about completing your first race!

I was the most nervous I’d ever been before competing in any sporting event (and it was only a super sprint ;)). My housemate and I had to get up at 4am to eat and drive an hour to Kurnell. After getting lost we managed to find the parking. We then had to put our bikes back together after the travel and walk about 1km to the transition. Our trainers from the tri-active program met us there and helped put the stickers where they belonged, and helped us setup in transition from the barrier.

The swim, bike and run was tough, but program had prepared me well and I even got a medal for coming second of two in my Age Group! I then proceeded to drive home and slept for the remainder of the day but felt like I could conquer the world.

Why do you love your Triathlon Club, and what role has STG played in your development?

STG has played the main role in my development! Our coach Sam Douglas is on hand to ask questions 24/7 and at sessions 6/7 days of the week to coach and train our club. Everyone in the club is always willing to answer questions or give advice.  

The main thing I love about the club is going to our training sessions. It always makes hard sessions a little easier when you know your friends are going through the same sets and still willing to cheer you on or help you out. Then you can have a little debrief and chat afterwards (or a coffee on the weekend!) I wouldn’t have improved as much as I have in the past year if I wasn’t part of STG.

Being picked to represent Australia must be amazing, tell us about that.

When I got the acceptance email I was on a rickety old train in the middle of rural China having a less than great day, I thought it was the funniest thing, my day was made instantly. I honestly couldn’t believe it, it seems like the craziest thing to qualify to compete in a world championship for a sport for someone who is new to the sport and still learning so much. I hadn’t told anyone in my club, so I emailed our coach and put a little blurb on our social app, everyone was really supportive and happy for me. I’m really excited to represent Australia in a world championship, not everyone can say they’ve represented their country in an international event.

Lastly, what would be your advice to a newbie looking to get into the sport

There is so many pieces of advice I would love to offer newbies to the sport;

  • Don’t be disheartened by your progress at the start, you’re essentially trying to pick up and master three different sports in one, it will take some time.


  • Join a triathlon club, the support network is amazing, you’ll make so many new friends, there’s always someone who can answer a question or give advice, and they’ll always be cheering you on through the ups and the downs of training and races.


  • Don’t compare your chapter 1 to someone else’s triathlon chapter 20, just keep consistency in training and the results will come.


  • Sign up to races, just training without a race goal can feel a little monotonous, having a goal and working through training blocks for a race will keep things interesting. I competed in 8 races in my first year and it was so much fun.

Thanks so much Rebecca for your time, and the entire state of NSW wishes you the best of luck in Lausanne!


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