Step­ping stone to the big time

Multisport Mecca - - Itu Grand Final -

THIS week­end Romy Wol­s­ten­croft joins il­lus­tri­ous com­pany.

Fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of Toby Coote and Dave Del­low, the 19-year-old will race in the ju­nior elite di­vi­sion at Satur­day’s ITU World Triathlon Grand Fi­nal at the Gold Coast.

“I’m a bit ner­vous but I’m just try­ing to treat it like any other race,” she said.

Sa­van­nah Wayner was the last Sun­shine Coast ath­lete to rep­re­sent Aus­tralia in the ju­nior elite di­vi­sion, al­though she com­peted in duathlon dur­ing 2015.

Wol­s­ten­croft be­comes just the third Coast prod­uct to reach elite triathlon ranks and en­ters her first ma­jor in­ter­na­tional race fol­low­ing an eight-week train­ing camp un­der the guid­ance of TriSutto’s Cameron Watt.

While over­seas she raced in the Holten ETU Euro­pean Cup sprint race where she fin­ished ninth (01:04:55, only 47 sec­onds be­hind the win­ner), and also got her first taste of pro­fes­sional rac­ing at the 5150 Zurich. The all-con­quer­ing Daniela Ryf was vic­to­ri­ous in 1hr 56min 18sec, while Wol­s­ten­croft was fourth with an ef­fort of 2:10:18 in a race she did “to see how the swim-bike was go­ing”.

Com­ing from a swim­ming back­ground, where she spent about three years in the pool and an­other three in open wa­ter rac­ing, Wol­s­ten­croft has risen rapidly through the ranks un­der the guid­ance of for­mer coach Toby Coote of Sun­shine Coast Tri Academy.

“I was com­pet­i­tive in that and I got bored..I wasn’t re­ally go­ing any­where in that be­cause I’m not re­ally the build for a swim­mer,” she said.

“I was al­right at run­ning, so Dad taught me how to ride a bike and then got in­volved with SCTA and then spent the past few years with them de­vel­op­ing.

“I had a good train­ing back­ground from swim­ming so I could pun­ish my­self a bit.”

De­spite her swim­ming foun­da­tion, Wol­s­ten­croft reg­u­larly finds her­self chas­ing once on land. Often slow out of the blocks, she reg­u­larly comes home with an out­stand­ing run leg.

Grad­u­at­ing from Matthew Flin­ders Angli­can Col­lege last year she is fo­cussed on triathlon for the short term with an ul­ti­mate am­bi­tion of mak­ing a world elite team.

“This is my first se­ri­ous year. Once I grad­u­ated from school I wanted to give it a re­ally good shot and that (ITU ju­nior elite) was the goal for this year. I re­ally didn’t set a goal beyond that,” she said.

“Now I just have to com­pete to my best abil­ity.

“I’m do­ing a cou­ple of part-time jobs and then I’m head­ing down to Brissy for uni next year to do (med­i­cal or me­chan­i­cal) engi­neer­ing at QUT.”

For Coote, her se­lec­tion was tes­ta­ment to a lo­cal pro­gram ded­i­cated to help­ing tal­ented young­sters make the top grade.

“The rea­son why I started do­ing this was be­cause I had to leave here to progress,” Coote said.

“We have a bloody good place to train...it’s all about pro­gress­ing and de­vel­op­ing ju­niors. You are not there for an ego boost, I’m there to help and it’s giv­ing back to the sport.”

Wol­s­ten­croft was the win­ner of last year’s SCTA Pro­tec­tor Alu­minium schol­ar­ship which fur­ther boosted her de­vel­op­ment.

Trans­fer­ring into the elite ranks isn’t easy, but the staged pro­gres­sion makes it eas­ier for mod­ern ath­letes com­pared to the old bap­tism by fire.

“We went straight into the elites against Miles (Ste­wart) and Crowie (Craig Alexan­der). It was sink or swim,” Coote said.

PHOTO: JOHN MCCUTCHEON

JU­NIOR ELITE: Romy Wol­s­ten­croft in train­ing with fa­ther Matthew (left) and Nathan Fitza­k­er­ley ahead of the ITU World Triathlon Grand Fi­nal at the Gold Coast.

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