Further history awaits nine-time Noosa Triathlon winner Ashleigh Gentle as she prepares for Sunday’s 40th anniversary of the iconic event.
And the 2023 edition comes after Gentle’s second successful Professional Triathletes Organisation (PTO) tour year with victories at the highest level in Singapore, Malaysia, and Andorra, finishing on the podium in every race she contested.
Waiting in Noosa will be a host of athletes out to make sure that Gentle doesn’t have things all her own way including fellow Olympian Jaz Hedgeland and IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 race winners Amelia Watkinson, Fenella Langridge, Sarah Crowley, and Lotte Wilms, along with a host of up-and-coming challengers.
Birmingham Commonwealth Games representative Natalie Van Coevorden also returns to Noosa for the first time since finishing second back in 2019, chasing her first ever win.
On the eve of her 12th race start, Gentle has reflected on her love affair with the Noosa Tri, sometimes wondering if she’s actually old enough to have raced it so many times.
A tenth victory would place the 32-year-old in the top echelon of any Australian sportsperson – an individual achievement to be widely celebrated.
“The word I associate Noosa with is surreal; sometimes I wonder whether I’m old enough to have done as many Noosas as I’ve done,” said Gentle, a two-time Olympian who won her first Noosa in 2012.
“I guess when you start so young; I was 18 or 19 when I did my first Noosa, I guess you just get hooked.
“I have only missed one year, coming back from an injury in 2011. It has been a constant on the triathlon calendar and it has helped shaped who I am in a sense in the sport of triathlon.
“We have this whole triathlon season that just lights up in our summer and I guess Noosa is one of those rare events that if you do say to someone “I’m doing Noosa” then nine times out of ten they have heard about it.”
And for someone who has dominated an event over the past decade and celebrating those memorable nine victories in front of her family, friends, and the entire triathlon community, it is the two second place finishes that stand out.
The first one when she went so close to catching three-time World Long Course Champion Caroline Steffen from Switzerland on debut in 2010, and the other when beaten by fellow Australian Olympian and two-time ITU World Champion Emma Moffatt in 2013.
“In 2010 I remember sitting in the Noosa Lake for my debut; it was a little bit new to me with the non-drafting format,” recalled Gentle.
“I only just got on a time trial bike in the last minute; I was just so young and not so strong on the bike, but I ran really well and remember closing in on Carboline Steffen and just could not catch her, finishing second by about four seconds.
“I just remember the crowd and the atmosphere and being blown away by the community spirit in a sense.
“I had been doing triathlon for about four years at that point and I had travelled to a few World Juniors, so it was so surreal to race in Australia and have such a crazy experience like that.
“Seeing what triathlon means to so many Aussies and I have pretty much done everyone since then apart from the COVID year and coming back from injury in 2011 and didn’t race; it’s pretty wild and it seems so long ago.”
“And when I got second to Moffy (Emma Moffatt) it was like I’d won it; I had been sick with a virus and had suffered from vertigo and collapsed at the Cairns triathlon out on the run course.
“I was unsure whether I’d actually start the race; I still had symptoms and of all the years our accommodation had a fire alarm at 2 am on race morning.
“It sent me into a spiral again. I still had this really bad vertigo and I thought am I going to be safe to race? And I only made a last-minute decision and I thought I’ve just got to start.
“If it’s a bit dangerous or if I don’t feel well then, I’ll just pull out so to be able to get second that day to Moffy and it wasn’t even one of my wins, but I was so proud of pulling that together.
For Gentle, the allure of Noosa transcends mere competition; it embodies a vibrant camaraderie that resonates deeply. Despite her fierce desire to win, she acknowledges the essence of the event goes beyond victory, drawing strength from the collective energy of her supporters, friends, and family who converge in Noosa.
Reflecting on her deep-rooted connection with the Noosa Triathlon, the 32-year-old opened up about the profound significance the event holds in her triathlon journey.
“It is always so memorable and even going past all the club tents. I started my career with Jenny Alcorn at Surfers Paradise Triathlon Club, and they are usually all out on course.
“Huge groups of all the age groupers in all the club tents, which for me it takes me back to where it all began; training with the age groupers and the clubs, being really involved and entrenched in the triathlon community.
“I always want to win but there is so much more to it than that and that’s what gives me a boost, I guess.
“So many of my family and friends now come up to Noosa, they are not athletes, but they come up just to support. t’s contagious for them too; it’s really hard to describe and put into words that feeling but that’s what it means to people when they go and race it.
“They can understand it; they’ve got a really good sense of what triathlon is about in Australia. It’s a sport that has always been very well supported.
“Noosa really brings that community together and brings out the best in the community. It draws you back. To be able to finish the season at your favourite event is always a nice way to see out the year no matter how it went.
“Each Noosa Triathlon has come at the end of a huge year whether I had been successful, or you’ve had a hard year I think there is something about the magic of Noosa that really pulls me through, and I just get this huge lift from it, so I hope it can bring more of that this year.”
Noosa Triathlon Elite Women
Ashleigh Gentle (AUS)
Natalie Van Coeverden (AUS)
Amelia Watkinson (NZL)
Charlotte McShane (AUS)
Jaz Hedgeland (AUS)
Fenella Langridge (GBR)
Sarah Crowley (AUS)
Kira Hedgeland (AUS)
Milan Agnew (AUS)
Paige Craqnage (AUS)
Hanne De Vet (BEL)
Emily Donner (AUS)
Jessica Ewart-McTigue (AUS)
Richelle Hill (AUS)
Hannah Knighton (NZL)
Sophie Malowiecki (AUS)
Mikayla Messer (AUS)
Lotte Wilms (AUS)