Long striding Canadian Matthew Sharpe saved his best till last to out-sprint the USA’s emerging star Morgan Pearson in a thrilling finish to today’s Triathlon Australia Mixed Relay Invitational at Runaway Bay.
Sharpe, 25 held off his training partner as the pair ran shoulder to shoulder in the closing stages of the inaugural Relay event – the latest addition to the 2020 Olympic program for Tokyo.
The two-day event started with 18 teams – 11 Australian teams and seven internationals from the USA, Canada/USA, Canada, Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Wales – and after two heats on yesterday and a final qualifying heat this morning it came down to an A final of eight teams and in the end two teams – Canada/USA and the USA fought out the finish.
Sharpe, who will race for the Maple Leaf’s in next month’s Commonwealth Games, started the final run leg with a 20 metre lead off the bike as he set off around the Sports Super Centre track with 1.6km to run (after the 300m pool swim and eight-kilometres on the Luke Harrop Criterium bike course).
Pearson, the former US lifeguard and brilliant US College runner (with a 5km pb of 13:36.22), set off after his training mate and had caught him as the pair surged towards the finish shoot.
And when it looked like Pearson may just have enough gas left in the tank, the lanky Canadian surged again to steal the victory for the combined USA/Canadian team with Kevin McDowell (USA), Amelie Kretz (Canada) and Chelsea Burns (USA).
Certainly, an unusual combination of Canada and the USA between the two arch-rivals who rarely, if ever, come together on the sporting field – but this unique format allowed the hybrid foursome to come together under the coaching of Australian Jonno Hall – himself a former Australian champion road cyclist.
“I train with Morgan every day so I know how good he is and what he has to offer so I decided to let him in and then try to out sprint him in the end and it worked this time,” said Sharpe, who admitted the Mixed Team format was a winner.
“It was a great weekend, great racing, great format…happy to get away with the win.”
Pearson had an outstanding team with him with Tony Smoragiewicz, world ranked number four Kirsten Kasper and the talented Tamara Gorman.
Australia No 2 (Gillian Backhouse, Ashleigh Gentle, Ryan Bailie and Daniel Coleman) finished third and were in the hunt all day with Backhouse putting the team in a strong position with both Bailie and Gentle digging deep with superb legs and Coleman hanging on for third with Australia No 1 (Emma Jeffcoat, Matt Hauser, Amber Pate and Steve McKenna) flying home for fourth.
The event, with strong support by Gold Coast City Council’s $3,500 in prizemoney, will be a regular on the Triathlon Australia event calendar.