Queenslander Courtney Atkinson confirmed his status as a master tactician by successfully defending his Australian Olympic Distance Triathlon title in today’s City of Perth Challenge.
Following what was, by his lofty standards, a poor swim, the Beijing Olympian lead a pack of 16 off the bike before running away from Victorian-based ACT athlete Gareth Halverson at the halfway stage of the 10km run to win in a time of 1hr 46min 17secs. Halverson finished almost a full minute adrift, while up-and-coming Queenslander James Seear snaring bronze and in doing so earned himself automatic selection in the Under 23 field for the World Championships on the Gold Coast in September.
“I had a really poor swim because the young blokes were all hyped up and sprinted out for the first 200 metres and I really battled to get through the field from there,” Atkinson said.
“Gareth went with me on the run and although we’re actually rooming together over here this weekend I really don’t know that much about his racing style and you’re never too sure how things will go because someone always jumps up and has a good day. But at the 5km mark it started to warm up and I suppose I was able to hold my pace and he dropped off a bit. That was the goal – to run out reasonably hard and then stick to a pace that I could hold evenly.”
Halverson, 24, was happy with his return to form: “I had a few injuries and then it was probably more of a mental challenge to turn things around, but that was a good race for me and gives me a solid platform going into what will hopefully be a strong season”.
In the women’s race, Queensland’s Annabel Luxford continued her triumphant return from injury, dominating today’s field to add the Olympic Distance title to the national sprint crown she secured in Hobart last month.
Luxford was in complete control after stepping off the bike among a leading bunch of four riders, but set the tone immediately in the run leg to move away and win easily in a time of 1hr 59min 38secs. Japan’s Sakimoto Tomoko showed plenty of grit to claim second, while local hope Felicity Sheedy-Ryan thrilled the Perth crowd to pull back two places in the run home to snare the bronze medal.
Luxford, a former world number one, only gave herself a pass mark. “I need to sharpen up a bit – my transitions were pretty rusty and I need to show a bit more explosiveness in those initial stages on each leg,” said the 26-year-old. “But that was my first Olympic Distance race for more than a year and I felt far more comfortable on the run today than what I did in Hobart, so all the signs are good.
Emma Jackson, from Queensland, faded on the run to finish sixth in the open field but was crowned the nation Under 23 champion at just 17 years of age. She had already secured a place in the junior field at the World Championships after recently being named Australian Junior Triathlete of the Year.
Both Atkinson and Luxford will now head to Mooloolaba in Queensland in a fortnight for the first of the international circuit World Cup meetings.
About 1100 athletes competed in various events over the weekend as part of the City of Perth Challenge. About 900 age group competitors took part in the Olympic Distance Triathlon which acted as a double-points qualifier for selection in the World Championships on the Gold Coast in September. Podium finishers in each age group gained automatic selection.
Rachael Paxton from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast recorded the fastest time among female age group competitors, finishing in 2hrs 4min 22secs. The fastest male was Ryan Bailie,from Bunbury in WA, completing the course in 1hr 52min 33secs.
Australian Triathlon Championships – Olympic Distance Results:
Perth – March 15 2009
Australian Triathlon Championships – Olympic Distance
Perth – March 15 2009
1. Courtney Atkinson (QLD)- 1h46.17s
2. Gareth Halverson(WA)- 1h47.16s
3. James Seear (QLD)- 1h48.01s
1. Annabel Luxford (QLD) – 1h59.38s
2. Sakimoto Tomoko (Japan)- 2h01.00
3. Felicity Sheedy Ryan (WA)- 2h03.38
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