Olympian Aaron Royle to guide Sam Harding in Paris Paralympic bid

17 Jun 2024

Two-time Olympian Aaron Royle will don the green and gold once again, guiding Sam Harding at this weekend’s World Triathlon Para Series Swansea, with the aim to compete together at the Paris Paralympic Games.

Known as a cornerstone of the Australian teams in the 2010’s, Royle made his World Triathlon Series debut aged 20, winning the Under 23 World Championship in 2012. Throughout his short course career he secured three World Triathlon Series podiums and enjoyed success in the mixed relay, becoming a key member of the quartets that medalled at the 2015, 2018 and 2019 World Championships and 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

The 34-year-old, who represented Australia at the 2016 Rio and 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, has since transitioned to middle-distance events and currently races the T100 Triathlon World Tour.

Despite being far from finished with his own career, when the opportunity to wear the green and gold alongside Harding came up, Royle was eager to take it.

“We all sat down, had a call and laid it all out there,” UK-based Royle said.

“I was really honest from the start about where I’m at and where my career is and if they were happy with that then I think we can make it work. Everyone was on board.

“From then on, we kept in contact. I went home to Australia in January this year, we linked up a couple of times and went through the process of everything and got on the tandem together.

“We did a bit of a mock race together in Wollongong where we did a bit of a swim, bike, run together. Once we did that, we were both fairly confident we could make it work.

“I’m a very patriotic Australian. That’s probably the biggest motivating factor for me. I love representing Australia.

“To do it alongside Sam at the Paralympics would be huge. I relish the opportunity to put on the green and gold and race for my country.

“I would be up there (in terms of career achievements). But I’m just there to help Sam achieve his goals.”

The pair will line up together for the first time at this weekend’s World Triathlon Para Series in Swansea, one of the final two races of the Paralympic Qualification Period.

Harding currently holds the eighth position in the PTVI Qualification Rankings, with the top nine athletes at the end of the qualification period earning quota positions for their respective nations and Australians in the top five securing automatic nominations to the Games.

Jeremy Peacock (PTS4) Liam Twomey (PTS4), David Bryant (PTS5), Jack Howell (PTS5), and Hannah MacDougall (PTS4) join the Australian team in Swansea, eager to strengthen their spots in the rankings before the qualification period draws to a close on July 1.

Following the race in Swansea, Royle will head to Font-Romeu in France for an altitude camp leading into the T100 London event, while Harding will travel to World Triathlon Para Series in Montreal for the final race of the Paralympic Qualification Period. He will be guided by David Mainwaring, who he has raced with for the past 12 months.

Mainwaring, a Paralympian himself, guided Jonathan Goerlach at the Tokyo 2020 Games and at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games where the pair won bronze.

Interestingly, he is Royle’s best friend and was one of the groomsmen at his wedding in 2022. Royle says Mainwaring was a strong influence in decision to step into the role of a guide.

“I probably started to consider becoming a guide because I knew of my best mate David doing it,” Royle said.

“My first concern was actually, I don’t want to take his job. I really wanted to speak to him and see where he was at. He has two kids and a full-time job and just couldn’t commit to what’s required. So, he gave me the go ahead really.”

Reflecting on Mainwaring’s impact and his transition to Royle as a guide, Harding expressed his gratitude and admiration for both.

“I’ve really got the best two guides lined up,” Harding said.

“Dave is still a huge part of my team. It’s been great racing with him. I’ve learned a lot from him.

“When the idea of Aaron guiding me in Paris was mentioned, Dave was straight on the phone that afternoon telling him to do it. I feel incredibly lucky to have both helping me.

“I remember watching him (Royle) in the Rio and Tokyo Olympic Games. But it wasn’t until I moved into triathlon where I learnt more about his career.

“Aaron really is the pick of guides. For our first race to be in Swansea, where he’s spent a lot of time, it’s really all come together smoothly.

“We’ll have another six days together before Swansea so I’m keen to keep building on the training we’ve done and see how much we can improve.”

WTPS Swansea
Saturday, June 22

Jeremy Peacock (PTS4)
Liam Twomey (PTS4)
David Bryant (PTS5)
Jack Howell (PTS5)
Sam Harding (PTVI)
Hannah MacDougall (PTS4)

Full Start List


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