The 2017 Devonport OTU Triathlon Oceania Championships in Devonport on Saturday is another important part of Australia’s elite triathletes and paratriathletes preparation in the countdown to Commonwealth Games nomination for Gold Coast 2018
Training partners, defending champion Marcel Walkington and Matt Baker (NSW) and impressive pair from last year Gillian Backhouse (QLD) and Emma Jeffcoat (NSW) will headline the 32nd running of the popular Devonport Triathlon in the Open and Under 23 Men’s and Women’s categories.
All four have been named in the 14-strong Australian Team for the April 8 World Triathlon Series (WTS) event on the Gold Coast with the first Australian across the line in the top ten earning an automatic Games nomination to the Commonwealth Games Association.
The Paratriathlon will also take on an all-star cast with five-time ITU World Champion Bill Chaffey, joined by Rio team mate Nic Beveridge and Scott Crowley in the Commonwealth Games PTHC1 (Hand Cycle) classification for men and Emily Tapp and Sarah Tait in the PTHC1 women.
The first Australian across the line in the World Paratriathlon Series event on April 8 will also gain an automatic nomination.
Also appearing in the Paratriathlon will be Rio gold medallist Katie Kelly and her Paralympic teammates Kate Doughty and Brant Garvey.
The Standard distance (1500m swim, 40km bike and 10km run) will see Baker, Walkington and Backhouse back in the saddle after their solid performances in the opening World Triathlon Series round in Abu Dhabi a fortnight ago and Jeffcoat will back up from her impressive fourth at the ITU Mooloolaba World Cup last Saturday.
Particularly for Backhouse, who was super impressive to finish sixth in an eye-catching WTS season opener which had coach Stephen Moss quietly confidently in the lead up to Gold Coast.
“Gill has pulled up really well post Abu Dhabi where I was pretty happy; she actually showed me she still had something to give so we are excited to race Devonport again before heading down to the Gold Coast,” said Moss.
Last year in Devonport Backhouse, a powerful bike rider finished second to Chilean Olympian Barbara Riveros with Under 23 winner Jeffcoat third home in the Elite after declaring she had a promising future.
For WTS debutant Baker, it will be important his race is mistake free after he strayed off course in transition through the swim.
“It'll be a little different with Gold Coast race being a Sprint distance event but the basic principles will apply. If I get a win that'll be a bonus but for this race I'm looking to keep my wits about me while I'm pushing my limits, trying not to miss any cones,” said Baker.
“Sharpening up again for another hit out was a bit more strenuous to begin with, with each respective sport and their harder sessions but it's certainly perked me up and I am rearing to go again.
“We had a really good bike session at a Criterium over the weekend and capped off the hard stuff with a solid fartlek on Tuesday.
“Everything seems to be normal again (post the WTS) so I'm keen to jump into this race and have a bit more control than I did in Abu Dhabi.
“The outcome for me in Devonport is getting the processes right, specifically making sure my nutrition plan is ideal for optimum performance.”
Defending champion and fellow WTS debutant, Walkington said he was definitely looking forward to returning to Devonport.
“I have had some success in the past on this course and I’ll look to continue that,” said Walkington who beat Drew Box, Declan Wilson, Luke Willian and Baker last year.
“The race will offer a good hard hit-out before my next big race of the season which is the WTS Gold Coast.
“There are a few other strong athletes on the start list so I am sure it will be a well contested race. Can't wait.”
Paralympic golden girl Katie Kelly will also return to Devonport after her success last year which played a key part in her Rio gold.
“I'm enjoying a renewed focus in my preparation after the intense build up and campaign of Rio,” said the Vision Impaired Kelly, who has the ITU World Championships as her 2017 goal.
“Dan Atkins (Gold Coast based Triathlon Australia High Performance coach) is helping me develop a stronger base so I have a more solid foundation to work from.
“It's a long road ahead to the 2017 World Championships and I am starting from the bottom again.
“My focus last year was Rio, but in the process my world ranking has dropped to around 14th.
“I need to be in the top 4-6 to secure a start in Rotterdam.
“The Oceania Championships is an important step to improve my ranking.
“Hopefully I pull up well after this weekend, and then we can shift our focus to the races ahead.”
Saturday 18th March 2017
7.30am National Age Group Standard Distance World Qualifying Race
1.00pm Elite/U23 Female Devonport OTU Standard Distance
3.15pm Elite/U23 Male Devonport OTU Standard Distance
5.15pm Devonport OTU Paratriathlon Oceania Championships
Status: Elite/U23 Australian Championship | OTU Oceania Championships
Age Group – ITU World Qualifying Race
Prize money: AUD15,000
Honour Roll: See the list of past Champions