Tasmanian triathlete Jake Birtwhistle is using world champion Jonathan Brownlee as inspiration as he seeks to make a point in the inaugural Super League event on Hamilton Island.
Launceston’s under-23 world champion was controversially overlooked for Olympic selection last year and will come up against two of those that were – Ryan Fisher and Ryan Bailie – in the opening leg of the sport’s dynamic new format.
The 22-year-old responded to his Rio disappointment by beating world champions Brownlee and Javier Gomez at the French Grand Prix in Dunkerque and then beat Fisher and Bailie at the sprint-distance in Hamburg – his second place being the best result by an Australian man in a World Triathlon Series race since 2011.
With a heavy reliance on his powerful running ability, Birtwhistle has often been compared to Brownlee, and believes he can learn plenty from the Englishman.
“To follow in the footsteps of someone like Jonny is something I can take a bit of confidence from and move forward with that,” he said.
“No one has much experience racing events like this. The top guys of ITU or long course won’t necessarily be the top guys of Super League Triathlon.
“The great thing about Super League Triathlon is that it is totally new for this generation of triathletes.”
Super League Triathlon pits the world’s best triathletes across short course formats for big prize money in dramatic locations across Asia-Pacific and the Gulf.
The series opener is on picturesque Hamilton Island and involves a triple mix on Friday, equalizer on Saturday and eliminator on Sunday.
Birtwhistle has been preparing alongside Bailie with Jamie Turner’s hugely-successful Wollongong Wizards.
The clubmates are aware they could assist each other in the competition but know there will be few places to hide in events like the two-stage equalizer, which features an opening stage individual cycling time trial whose winner can set up a time advantage for the swim-run-swim-bike-run leg.
“I think if the opportunity arises we could work together, but I can’t imagine there being a set plan of attack,” Birtwhistle said.
“Everything is going to be so fast and unexpected. You just have to be there and be ready to go with the moves and pick the right times to take matters into your own hands and take the race up the road.”
Each competitor has picked a race number that holds personal significance with Bailie and Birtwhistle selecting numbers 39 and 44 respectively as they are the 39th and 44th male to represent Australia at a triathlon world championship event.