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Aussies take triathlon double gold in heatwave

18 January 2013

TRIATHLON: Australia has won double gold in the men’s and women’s triathlon events at the 2013 Australian Youth Olympic Festival in what were scorching conditions in Sydney’s west.

Jaz Hedgeland kicked off what was a bright day for Australia’s future in the sport with the 17-year-old from Perth knocking off Japan’s Sumire Ohara and Georgie Taylor-Brown from Great Britain.

The race began with the 750m swim sorting out the field. Hedgeland and her fellow Australians (Anna Coldham, Holly Grice, Jodie Duff) started strongly, leading the pack along with Taylor-Brown.

Emerging from the swim leg Taylor-Brown got away quickly on the bike, closely followed by teammate Sophie Coldwell and Ohara.

The Australians followed closely and worked well together in the 20km bike leg to position themselves among the leaders going into the 5km run.

Leading the run early, Hedgeland took advantage of her position and held it all the way to the finish, winning gold in a time of 59:22, making it in under the hour.

Finishing close behind in second was Japan’s Ohara in a time of 59:33 and Taylor-Brown in third clocking in at 59:37.

Hedgeland said she was happy with her efforts.

“I haven’t quite wrapped my head around it yet, it’s all so exciting,” she said.

Current world junior champion Fumika Matsumoto of Japan finished 12th and 2011 world junior champion Mikayla Nielsen from New Zealand finished fifth.

Australian athletes also dominated in the men’s triathlon as teenager Jacob Birtwhistle grabbed gold after a fantastic effort finishing in a time of 55:03.

 “It’s by far one of the biggest wins of my career,” the Launceston born athlete said. “It shows me that I can follow in the footsteps of athletes like Emma Snowsill and one day make it to the Olympics.”

Birtwhistle was joined on the podium by silver medallist and fellow teammate Luke Willian (55:20) and Great Britain’s Marc Austin (55:33) who took home bronze.

The heat at the Penrith International Regatta Centre beat down on the men as they took to the swim. A steady pack of around fourteen competitors lead throughout and into the bike leg which left it to the run to sort out the winners.

Matt Baker, two-time Australian school sports champion, looked strong throughout the first two legs and broke out into the run with a strong lead.

But it wasn’t long before Birtwhistle and Willian overtook him and went neck and neck for the lead followed by Austin.

Venezuela’s Luis Miguel, representing the ITU team, provided strong competition, keeping the frontrunners pushing until the final stretch.

An exciting and exhausted finish brought in Birtwhistle first, followed by Willian and Austin.

Baker followed close behind in the run and managed to stay with the frontrunners until a sprint to the finish coming in fifth with a time of 55:59.

2009 AYOF champion and London 2012 Olympian Emma Jackson was close by to share her excitement for both events.

“It was great to see Australia dominating the pack in both events,” Jackson said. “With four Australians in the top seven in the women’s and first and second in the men’s, it gives Australia great Olympic hopes for the future.”

Birtwhistle was also impressed with his Australian team.

“It was great that Luke and I could take first and second, I’m so impressed with the Australians today,” he said.

Triathlon continues on Saturday with the teams relay mixed event.


Hayley Williams

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