Teenage Gold Coaster Bradley Course kept his cool in the heat of Port Douglas on Saturday to run away with the biggest wins of his career and a slice of triathlon history to boot.
Not only did he produce a remarkable victory over a field that included seasoned internationals to take out the Male Elite and Under 23 double at the 2023 Oceania Triathlon Cup and Championship – but he did it while still competing as a Junior.
The 19-year-old, who will contest this year’s World Triathlon Junior World Championships in Hamburg, Germany in July has now also earned an automatic nomination for the World Triathlon Under 23 World Championship in Pontevedra, Spain in September – the first Australian Junior to have ever achieved the feat.
Course, coached by Dan Atkins at the AusTriathlon Queensland Performance Centre on the Gold Coast, showed maturity beyond his years in a dominant performance over the Olympic Standard Distance – only his second time over the 1.5km swim, 40km bile and gruelling 10km run, stepping up from the Junior Sprint Distance.
He had seasoned triathlon officials clambering for their record books, unable to find another Junior who had ever won an Oceania Standard Distance Elite Championship event, in a race that included three Olympians from Australia and New Zealand.
Atkins said before the race that Australia’s younger brigade were ready to claim some scalps after a successful Team Australia Camp in Cairns in the lead up to the race.
Course lived up to his coach’s beliefs, sitting back and sticking to a meticulous plan on the bike and throughout the 10km run, before bursting free to take the win from fellow exciting Under 23 Oscar Dart.
Australia’s 2018 Commonwealth Games representative, Luke Willian, was a strong third in the Elites with Kiwi 2022 Commonwealth Games rep Dylan McCullough fourth overall and third in the Under 23s.
Sticking to a carefully plotted plan with Atkins monitoring his one-kilometre split times, Course held himself back before producing a run inspired by training partner, Matt Hauser’s perfectly timed finish to take silver in the recent World Triathlon Championship Series race in Yokohama, Japan.
“If Hauser can do it, then so can I.” Course said to Atkins before the race. Tokyo Olympian and Australia’s top ranked male triathlete, Hauser, was at the finish line for a “big brotherly type” hug.
“Bradley really takes on board what we talk about, and he respects the experience that we have in the program, and he got what he deserved today from really piecing that race together so exceptionally well.” said Atkins, singing his young charge’s praises.
“The win certainly gave Matt a kick as well. I think he felt like a proud big brother today, watching him on the sideline.
“It was great to see them embrace after the race and that makes me feel prouder than the race itself, seeing the flow on it is having throughout the program and I’m not sure any Junior has ever won an Oceania Standard Distance to be honest.
“Beating a host of Olympians and athletes he has idolised his whole career, he now sees himself as a competitor.
“Bradley is just ecstatic that he will get the opportunity to be nominated for a Junior team and an Under 23 team and I’m going to allow him to nominate for both races and I think he proved today he is capable of doing that.”
The women’s race saw a very in-form New Zealand Olympian Nicole Van Der Kaay add to her outstanding 2023 season – chased home by Tokyo Olympian Jaz Hedgeland who dug deep for a spirited second place in a race that saw the temperature rise.
It was Van Der Kaay who quickly took off after racking her bike in T2, stamping her authority on her dominant run leg, with a chase group of fellow Kiwi Ainsley Thorpe, Hedgeland, Charlotte McShane and Charlotte Derbyshire running together for the first two laps.
Van Der Kaay raced away in exceptional fashion to a win with Hedgeland and Derbyshire dropping Thorpe and McShane, who finished fourth and fifth respectively.
Another rising star from Atkins group, Derbyshire finished third in the Elites and claimed the Under 23 title and she too earned an automatic nomination with Course for the Under 23 Worlds team.
Hedgeland showed her experience to surge away from Derbyshire who was fantastic to hold on to third place – which was her main objective today, to make the podium and earn that auto-nomination for the World’s.
Kiwi pair Brea Roderick and Hannah Knighton were second and third respectively in the Under 23s.