Tassie’s Birtwhis­tle is the pride of Aus­tralia

Mercury (Hobart) - - SPORT - ADAM SMITH and AMANDA LULHAM

JAKE Birtwhis­tle has fin­ished the 2017 ITU World Triathlon Se­ries as the high­est ranked Aus­tralian male de­spite be­ing forced out of the fi­nale in Rot­ter­dam.

The Tas­ma­nian — the only male who has achieved an au­to­matic nom­i­na­tion for next year’s Com­mon­wealth Games — was struck down by ill­ness af­ter ar­riv­ing in the Nether­lands.

De­spite miss­ing the last race of the sea­son he fin­ished 12th over­all in the WTS, with fel­low Aussie and Rio Olympian Aaron Royle 16th.

Spain’s Mario Mola fin­ished third in the fi­nale, al­low­ing him to de­fend his se­ries crown.

The race was won by French­man Vin­cent Luis.

Birtwhis­tle had three sec­ond-place fin­ishes in the year, as well as be­ing part of the Aus­tralian team which landed gold in the mixed team re­lay in Ham­burg.

Com­mon­wealth Games con­tender Ash­leigh Gen­tle saved Aus­tralian pride and claimed sec­ond place with the run of her life in the women’s event. Gen­tle was the only Aus­tralian — male or fe­male — to crack the top 10 rank­ings in an en­cour­ag­ing sign for her chances at next year’s Games on the Gold Coast.

As Ber­mu­dian Flora Duffy claimed both the fi­nale and over­all world ti­tle hon­ours, Gen­tle had to make up much of a three-minute deficit in­curred on the swim and the bike to fin­ish sec­ond over­all in the six-event se­ries, which de- ter­mines the elite triathlon world cham­pi­ons.

It is the fist time Gen­tle has fin­ished on the world cham­pi­onship tour podium, with Amer­i­can Katie Zaferes claim­ing the bronze.

“I have been watch­ing the World Se­ries for a long time now and even the World Cups and I’ve been on a lot of World Cham­pi­onship teams,’’ Gen­tle said.

“I’ve seen some amaz­ing ath­letes be­fore me get on that podium or be world cham­pi­ons; I don’t think it will sink in for a while but it will be a mem­ory I will trea­sure for­ever.”

De­spite the dis­ap­point­ment in the se­nior men’s ranks, there were signs of en­cour­age­ment for the fu­ture with Matt Hauser win­ning the world ju­nior crown for 2017.

Hauser was also part of the Aus­tralian mixed re­lay team which won the world ti­tle.

“It has been a 12-month prepa­ra­tion for me and I have had a few set­backs but it has been great year all round in to­tal, two world ti­tles now for me with the team mixed re­lay.”

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