Tassie’s Birtwhistle is the pride of Australia
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.”