Matt Hauser produced a performance of Olympic proportions at the World Triathlon Grand Final, keeping his cool along the narrow, back alleys of Pontevedra to book his ticket to Paris 2024.
The 25-year-old, who grew up and plied his triathlon trade in Hervey Bay, secured his spot at a second Olympic campaign with an eighth-place performance that left coach Dan Atkins, lost for words.
“I just don’t know how he does it, I really don’t.” exclaimed Atkins.
Hauser will now joins a who’s who of Australia’s triathletes who have been to two or more Olympic Games – Emma Moffatt and Erin Densham (2008, 2012, 2016) with three; and Aaron Royle (2016, 2020), Courtney Atkinson and Brad Kahlefeldt (2008, 2012), Peter Robertson (2000, 2004), Loretta Harrop (2000, 2004) and Ashleigh Gentle (2016, 2020) who have all been to two Olympics.
Forced out of last month’s Paris Test Event with COVID, Hauser missed his first opportunity for automatic nomination to the Australian Olympic Committee – but he wasn’t done.
Although getting back on the training horse wasn’t easy, facing a race against time in his training base in Banyoles, Spain to get his mind and body in tune and in sync for another throw of the automatic nomination dice.
Desperate to reap a reward for his team’s efforts after a rewarding but long and at times frustrating and trying season.
And on the eve of the race, Hauser made it clear his preparation had been touch and go.
“It’s taken up until this past week to string a couple of decent (training) sessions together so it could be a ‘just in the nick of time’ scenario,” said Hauser.
And in one of the most chaotic and dramatic World Triathlon Grand Finals in history Hauser let rip with what coach Atkins described as the most impressive thing he’s ever seen Hauser produce – his best 1.5km swim of his career, leaving race favourites Alex Yee (GBR) and Hayden Wilde (NZL) both at sea.
Hauser leading the field out of the water before producing a survival of the toughest battle on then bike and run.
Digging deep on the 40km bike, Hauser arrived into T2 ready to do whatever it took on the final 10km run to the blue carpet – knowing the stakes had never been higher.
Hauser survived, grabbing his second Olympic berth to finish in eighth place, ticking the automatic nomination box set by AusTriathlon.
His almighty swim playing a major part in a race that no one saw coming.
“That race was so crazy, and the crowd and the atmosphere were second to none,” said Hauser who praised his team at AusTriathlon and the Queensland Academy of Sport.
“Thank you to my team for allowing me to stand on the start line ready to put up a real fight.
“Considering the dogged past month, I knew I had to execute everything to perfection out there, with no room for mistakes.
“I pushed the pace in the water, worked well with the front group on the bike and had a measured run to finish eighth and seventh overall in the WTCS.
“But this one meant so much more though, after missing the Paris Test Event, I wanted to give us all some reward for what has been a long season. Paris 2024 here we come.”
Atkins was quick to reflect on a challenging end of the season for Hauser.
“The last three weeks have been rough for Matt, we tried a lot of different strategies to help him get over covid but not a lot seemed to work,” explained Atkins.
“So pretty much everything was aerobic based to try and give Matt every possible chance of racing.
“Building confidence in a couple of key little sessions and making sure the people around him where all positive – that’s what helps Matt in the lead up to any race.
“He really destroyed any chance of Yee or Wilde winning the race, his swim was the most impressive thing I’ve seen Matt do.
“I still shake my head at his overall commitment to that race – to lead the swim, onto T1 then out of T2 he showed how intently Matt wanted to achieve a top result.
“At the beginning of the year Matt’s focus was to secure Olympic qualification and to finish eighth, we both broke down, and embraced together.
“That’s something I’ll never forget, no words just a great big old man hug – that’s why I do what I do, for those moments.”
It was a race that saw challengers come and go through the picturesque surrounds and the historic narrow alleyways that eventually saw the French connection and a lone German fight out a dramatic three-way charge to the finish.
In the end the surprise packet and unheralded Frenchman Dorian Coninx kept his cool to win the day and the World Title from Germany’s Tim Helwig with Pierre le Corre (FRA) third and fellow-country man defending champion Leo Bergere fourth.
Wilde finishing second overall in the World title race, with defending champion Bergere third.
In other Australian results in the Elite Men’s Race, Brandon Copeland finished 27th, Luke Willian 28th, Jake Birtwhistle 44th and Callum McClusky 51st.
While Natalie Van Coevorden was again the best of the Elite Women finishing 21st, followed by Jaz Hedgeland (23rd), Charlotte McShane (27th) and Sophie Linn (30th) with Van Coevorden finishing the highest placed Australian on the WTCS rankings point score in 28th.
In the Under 23 Women’s World Championship, Charlotte Derbyshire was the best of the Aussies in 17th, after giving a good sight as did Gold Coast training partner Tara Sosinski (24th), Jessica Ewart-McTigue was 37th and Ellie Hoitink a DNF.
Bradley Course was the best of the Australian Under 23 men in 24th, followed by Oscar Dart (25th) and Lachlan Jones (27th).
2023 World Triathlon Championship Finals Elite Men
Matt Hauser – 8th
Brandon Copeland – 27th
Luke Willian – 28th
Jake Birtwhistle – 44th
Callum McClusky – 51st
2023 World Triathlon Championship Finals Elite Women
Nat Van Coevorden – 21st
Jaz Hedgeland – 23rd
Charlotte McShane – 27th
Sophie Linn – 30th
2023 World Triathlon Championship Finals U23 Men
Brad Course – 24th
Oscar Dart – 25th
Lachlan Jones – 27th
2023 World Triathlon Championship Finals U23 Women
Charlotte Derbyshire – 17th
Tara Sosinski – 24th
Jessica Ewart-Mctigue – 37th
Ellie Hoitink – DNF