TRIPLE-OLYMPIAN Lee Troop paid Jake Birtwhistle the highest of compliments when he described the Launceston teenager's stunning performance in Sunday's Launceston Ten as ``Mottramesque''.
Birtwhistle finished in front of London Olympians in claiming third place and the Tasmanian 10km title, prompting ninth-placed veteran Troop to draw a flattering comparison with his fellow Victorian.
``Running along behind him wound the clock back 15 years because I could have sworn I was looking at Craig Mottram,'' Troop said.
``He's an 18-year-old with an awesome amount of talent. He's Mottramesque.
``From what I saw on Sunday and (his coach) Kim Gillard has told me, he could certainly be an Olympian in 2020 but could even make Rio (in 2016). Mottram went to an Olympics at 21 and so could Jake.
``Mottram also went on to become a world championship bronze medallist and could run 5000m in 12:55.''
US-based Troop was full of admiration for the way Birtwhistle ran his race.
``He was struggling to hang on going out but ended up running a great race.
``With the weather and the way the race was run, it was really set up for him, but in those conditions athletes either choke or rise to the occasion, and he did that without fear, which is a very rare asset to have but one needed to be a world-class athlete.
``It was an opportunity to perform, and he did that remarkably well.''
Troop said he first became aware of the Western Suburbs talent when training with Gillard in 2006 and had followed his progress since.
The 40-year-old former national 5000m champion held strong views on Birtwhistle's seemingly inevitable choice between running and triathlon, a sport in which he will contest this year's world championships in London.
``I think he's a much better runner than a triathlete but if he loves triathlon then that's a loss to running,'' Troop said.
``Whether he's prepared to put in the hard yards and live the barbaric existence that comes with being a runner, as opposed to the luxurious lifestyle of a triathlete, is up to him. There's a lot of triathletes where I live in Boulder and I've never met a poor one!
``If he sticks with running, he may find he'll put in a lot of work and not really get anywhere but then suddenly it'll happen for him.
``He will probably go to triathlon because that is more glamorous and much better funded, so how do you encourage a kid away from that?
``But I hope he grew up idolising someone like Mottram, because maybe then running will be his real passion.
``Kim says he has a wonderful temperament, a great work ethic and a supportive family in his corner, and that's all very positive.''