The Gold Coast will stage the final “automatic” Rio Olympic Games qualifying race for Australia’s elite triathletes it was announced today.
Triathlon Australia has scheduled the second round of the ITU World Triathlon Series on April 9, 2016 at Southport as the final chance for triathletes to book an automatic nomination for the Games.
The Gold Coast race will be the second round of the 2016 WTS calendar which kicks off in Abu Dhabi on March 4 and 5.
Triathlon Australia’s 2016 Australian Olympic Team Nomination Criteria will now see the first Australian athlete who finishes in the top 10 in either of the male or female races nominated by Triathlon Australia to the Australian Olympic Committee.
Nomination will be subject to the athlete satisfying and continuing to satisfy the requirements set out in the 2016 Australian Olympic Team Triathlon Australia Nomination Criteria.
Only Newcastle’s Aaron Royle has achieved an automatic nomination so far after his barnstorming sixth placing in the first nomination race, the Rio Test Event on August 1 while Gillian Backhouse was the highest placed woman in Rio, finishing 13th.
The Gold Coast race will see the cream of Australia’s triathletes on the starting line, including the inform Commonwealth Games representative Ryan Bailie in the men’s and two-time Olympic and bronze medallist Emma Moffatt and her fellow Gold Coaster and Commonwealth Games representative Ashleigh Gentle.
They will be joined in the girls by rising stars Backhouse and Charlotte McShane, London Olympic bronze medallist Erin Densham and her London team mate Emma Jackson in the women’s race and two-time Olympian Courtney Atkinson and emerging star, ITU under 23 world champion Jake Birtwhistle, with Ryan Fisher also in the mix.
At the conclusion of the 2015 WTS season in Chicago last month, Moffatt finished 10th overall; Gentle 12th; McShane 15th, Backhouse 25th, Densham 31st and Jackson 32nd.
Bailie was the pick of the boys for consistency, finishing a highly creditable sixth overall in an all-star Top Ten, with Royle seventh, Birtwhistle 37th, Ryan Fisher 54th and Atkinson 59th.
Selection for Moffatt, Densham and Atkinson will see them become triathlon’s first triple Olympians – with all three members of the 2008 and 2012 Olympic teams.
If there is another automatic selection in the men’s race at the Gold Coast it will leave one position open for a discretionary selection providing Australia gains three quota places at the end of the Olympic Qualification period next May.
If there is an automatic qualifier in the women race then it means there will be a maximum two places open for discretion providing Australia gains its three quota places.
The Oceania Championships in Gisborne on March 19 will be a key, with the winners of both the men’s and women’s race securing a quota place for their Federation.
“The Gold Coast will be the last chance to gain automatic nomination,” said Triathlon Australia’s National Performance Director Bernard Savage.
“The first Australian home inside the top ten will receive the nomination – the others will have to rely on discretion.
“The Olympic nomination period finishes in Mid-May with the WTS Yokohama race on May 14 and 15 and at that point it will be confirmed to each federation how many quota spots they have.
“From there we will finalise the nomination process and we will nominate the athletes to the AOC as our team.
“And although there was no direct selection on the recent World championships grand final in Chicago there were valuable Olympic qualification points gained and a strong performances in high quality fields are always important.
“But at least now the athletes can start setting themselves for that opportunity on the Gold Coast but also being mindful they shouldn’t have all their eggs in one basket.
“They should also be looking to consistently be delivering competitive performances across the season.”
Australia has an impressive Olympic medal tally winning one gold, two silver and two bronze medals from four Olympic campaigns; with Michellie Jones winning silver in 2000; Loretta Harrop winning silver in 2004; Emma Snowsill gold and Moffatt bronze in 2008 and Densham bronze in 2012.
Australia’s second highest placed male in an Olympic triathlon, Miles Stewart, who was sixth in Sydney in 2000, has just been appointed as Triathlon Australia’s new CEO.
Greg Bennett has the highest placing of any Australian male, finishing fourth in Athens in 2004, while Courtney Atkinson was 11th in 2008 and 18th in 2012.