Tassie teens ready to take the baton from Birtwhistle

14 Mar 2024

The next generation has signalled they are ready to take over the baton as one celebrated career of a local hero changes direction and two Tasmanian teenagers announce their arrival into triathlon’s rising ranks in Devonport this weekend.

Launceston’s favourite triathlon son Jake Birtwhistle has indicated that Saturday’s 2024 Oceania Triathlon Sprint Championship race at the Mersey Bluff course could well be his Devonport swansong as he prepares to transition into longer course racing.

But not before the 29-year-old Tokyo Olympian plots a pathway towards a second Games and selection onto this year’s Paris team.

Birtwhistle never forgetting where it all began as a Tassie schoolboy – the start of a stunning career that has so far seen him accumulate 17 wins, 30 podium finishes from 94 international races.

A career highlighted by his Under 23 World Championship win in Chicago in 2015 and memorable World Triathlon Championship Series victories over the world’s best in Leeds and Hamburg as well as World Championship and Commonwealth Games gold medals for Australia in Mixed Team Relays.

He comes into Saturday’s race as the defending champion after last year holding off recent World Triathlon Cup winner Callum McClusky, and 2022 Commonwealth Games teammate Brandon Copeland.

McClusky announced his intentions with a breakthrough win in the Napier race and along with Copeland will present the greatest threats along with a New Zealand contingent led by Tayler Reid.

But fittingly the Devonport coastline will also provide a memorable backdrop for the entry into elite careers for two more Tasmanian teens – keen to follow in Birtwhistle’s famous footsteps.

Snapping at the heels of their older rivals will be two of Australia’s rising stars in Hobart’s 15-year-old Jack Woodberry and 17-year-old Jack Latham from Ulverstone.

The pair will realise a childhood dream when they line up alongside their idol Birtwhistle, both making their elite triathlon debuts in Devonport.

Latham and Woodberry announcing themselves as two to watch on the Australian triathlon scene.

Woodberry’s recent victory at the 2024 Oceania Triathlon Junior Championships in Napier, solidifying the former junior AFL and track and field star’s growing reputation in the triathlon ranks.

Last year, Woodberry won the Australian Junior Super Sprint Championships in becoming the first Tasmanian since Birtwhistle in 2012 to achieve the feat.

He admits he’s still punching himself after winning in Napier and now getting the chance to line up against his idol Birtwhistle.

“It does feel quite surreal actually because just a few years ago Jake was someone who I looked up to and I still do today and to be lining up against someone like him and the likes of Callum McClusky, it’s amazing really,” said Woodberry.

“I’m so proud to be a Tasmanian. It motivates me every day to know that I come from Tasmania and that I do what I do. It motivates me so much to prove what a little state like Tassie can do and there are certainly plenty of sportsmen and teams like our basketball team the Jack Jumpers who are on fire in the NBL that inspires me.

“I can’t wait to showcase what I have to offer and have some fun doing it. I feel like I race my best when I just go out there and have fun and to learn as much as I possibly can, that is the main thing.

“This is going to be the first of many experiences at this level, so just to get out there and have a bit of fun and see what I can learn in front of my family and friends.

“My mum and dad Helen and Marcus and members of my family and friends are going to come and watch along with a few of my aunties as well. It will be a big race. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Latham finished fourth in Napier, the second Australia across the line – behind Woodberry.

He represented Australia at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Trinidad and Tobago last year – where he earned a bronze medal in the individual race and gold in the mixed relay event.

He says getting to test himself against an idol is an honour.

“I’ve known Jake for a couple years, and I’m really excited to get to race him.” Latham said.

“I watched him at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. I won’t lie, I was a little kid in grade five jumping up and down watching him take the tape and saying ‘I want to be that guy, I want to be like him’. He was like a super hero to me.

“To be able to race against him in his last year here is an honour.”

Related Posts