Tokyo Hopefuls Heading to Mooloolaba Triathlon

8 March 2021

Australia’s aspiring Tokyo triathletes will be in action this weekend at the Mooloolaba Triathlon, as they stake their claim for a spot on the Australian team.

More than 35 athletes will line up for the Australian Elite and Under 23 Standard Championship as a part of the Mooloolaba Triathlon on Sunday 14 March.

As well as racing for the Australian Elite and Under 23 Standard Championship, the triathletes will be putting their case forward for selection for Tokyo, with the Australian team still to be determined.

Ashleigh Gentle represented Australia in Rio in 2016 and will be nominated for Tokyo, pending World Triathlon quota allocation, and is looking forward to racing on the Sunshine Coast this weekend.

“I’m pretty excited because it’s almost exactly 12 months since COVID really hit us in Australia, in the sense that our world stopped as athletes,” said Gentle. “I’m really excited and grateful that we can be back racing 12 months later, and even though Mooloolaba is not a World Cup I’m really looking forward to it and know that there’s a lot of excitement around it.

“I really just want to see where I’m at in Mooloolaba,” she said. “It’s going to be my first Olympic distance race since Lausanne 2019 which is really crazy, I don’t think I’ve gone that long without racing a standard distance race before. It will be a great test to see where I’m at, where my fitness is at, and there’s no better evaluation of fitness and skills than a race, and hopefully I’ll be able to see how things go and which direction I need to head in.

“I really want to execute a good race in Mooloolaba. My training is coming together and I’m really enjoying it at the moment, so I just want to see if I can convert those good feelings in training to a race.”

Joining Gentle on the start line in Mooloolaba will be Australia’s leading Olympic distance triathletes, including Emma Jeffcoat, Olympic and Commonwealth Games representative Emma Jackson and Youth Olympic Games representative Charlotte Derbyshire.

The men’s field includes Jake Birtwhistle, who alongside Gentle will be nominated for Tokyo by Triathlon Australia at the end of the qualification period, with the Tasmanian looking forward to getting back to racing for the first time in over a year.

“I’m excited to be back, Noosa 2019 was my last race so I’m just happy to be back on a start line,” said Birtwhistle. “I’ve had a solid block of aerobic training building up over the past few months so it’ll be interesting to see how my progress is tracking.

“Tokyo is of course my main focus for this season, and as that’s still quite some time away I will happily say I’m not at my best now,” he said. “I didn’t really plan to start racing this season until May, but with so much uncertainty around events globally it just made sense for me to race Mooloolaba because we don’t really know when the next races will be. So the race will be tough for a number of reasons but I’m looking forward to it regardless.

“Mooloolaba is a great place for a triathlon, I’ve only competed here two or three times but I have great memories of the race week,” said Birtwhistle. “2021 will no doubt look different to what I remember but it’s great that the Australian triathlon community can be back here and racing in the iconic event after a tough year.”

Racing alongside Birtwhistle will be Rio 2016 representative Aaron Royle, who won IRONMAN 70.3 Sunshine Coast, also in Mooloolaba, in September last year, and Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Mixed Relay gold medallist Matthew Hauser.

The Australian Elite and Under 23 Standard Championship will see athletes complete a 1.5km swim, 40km ride and 10km run, with racing to begin at Main Beach in Mooloolaba at 6.35am on Sunday morning.