Launceston triathlete Jake Birtwhistle admits to a sense of relief after having secured a spot for next year’s Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
The 22-year-old former Riverside High and Launceston College student was the first Australian home and fifth overall in the home leg of the World Triathlon Series at Southport a week ago guaranteeing him automatic selection for the Games.
It was some consolation for the heartbreak of controversially missing out on a spot on the Australian team for the Rio Olympic Games last year.
“It was good – a bit of a relief I guess to still be a year out and have that kind of selection already sorted is a nice kind of feeling,” Birtwhistle told Fairfax Media.
“I don’t have to worry about it for the rest of the year and can just get on with racing and focus now on the Comm Games.”
While earning a spot for the Games wasn’t his sole focus going into the Gold Coast race, he said he went in keen to do well and knowing that could happen.
“I am definitely looking forward to it – I’ll compete at anything like that and it is very exciting,” he said. “It will be my first Games and being in Australia as well.”
Birtwhistle said earning Commonwealth Games selection was a good way to move forward after the disappointment of Rio and qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Games was firmly on his radar.
“Tokyo has been my plan and intention as my main Olympics since I was probably 16.
“I always thought that I would be around the right age for Tokyo and around my peak by then so that’s the plan.”
Birthwhistle described the Gold Coast World Series race where he finished fifth as “not been too bad”, but said there things he could improve on.
“I put myself in the race – but just needed to stick around a little bit longer on the run.
“I didn’t quite have the legs on the weekend like I usually would which was a bit annoying but thankfully I was able to hold for fifth place and secure that spot.”
Back at his Woollongong base, the former under-23 world champion was ranked 13th in 2016 in WTS with a best finish of second in Hamburg against the best professional triathletes in the world.
He said he will be starting something a bit different in the next couple of months but for now was making sure he recovered and got over the block of racing he had just completed.
“I want to get to also get in a good block of training ahead of the Yokohama World Series event in about four weeks time,” he said.
Having taken part in the inaugural Super League Triathlon on Hamilton Island in March, Birthwhistle said backing up for competition three days in a row had been hard but he had produced good results winning one of the stages including the final race and finishing third overall in the standings earning himself $30,000.
“It was good fun and brilliant team racing which was good,” he said.
“There are no official dates but I think we will be doing another one in early 2018 for the Super League.”