Jake Birtwhistle has been anointed Tasmania’s champion of champions.
In a golden year for the state’s sport, the 23-year-old Launceston triathlete’s impressive catalogue of achievements saw him named athlete of the year.
Birtwhistle saw off competition from five other Commonwealth Games champions and a two-time rowing world championship medallist to claim the award in Hobart on Wednesday night.
“It’s a huge honour,” Birtwhistle said.
“When I look back I think I’ve had a pretty great year but when I saw who I was up against the award could go to anyone.
“It’s strong competition and very good company to be in.
“It’s been such a big year for Tasmanian sport and to be recognised as a contributor to that is one thing and taking out the award is another.”
A stellar season saw Birtwhistle anchor Australia to team gold at April’s Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast two days after claiming individual silver.
In the mixed relay event destined to debut at the 2020 Olympics, Birtwhistle also helped Australia to silver at the world championships in Hamburg and gold in the World Triathlon Series event in Edmonton.
The Launceston-born former Riverside Primary, Riverside High and Launceston College student capped his year by finishing third in the WTS, becoming just the second Australian to achieve a podium finish.
“I’m very happy with the year,” he said. “Going in, I set out my goals for the Commonwealth Games and WTS and to come away with those medals was everything I wanted from this year.”
An 11-time junior national champion, Birtwhistle has long been on the radar of Australian athletics and triathlon organisations.
On a big night for Tasmanian sport, two stars of the MCG were also inducted into the state’s sporting hall of fame.
Two-time Coleman Medallist and 1980 VFL premiership player Michael Roach and 2008 Olympian and 2006 Commonwealth Games bronze medal-winning steeplechaser Donna MacFarlane joined 131 fellow Tasmanians in the distinguished group.
Birtwhistle was a world schools cross-country champion in 2012, world duathlon junior champion in 2014 and an Australian and Oceania junior triathlon champion.
He was a world junior silver medallist in 2014 before becoming under-23 world champion a year later.
His goal for 2019 is to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
“We have not got the exact qualification criteria yet but there will be a test event in Tokyo and that will probably have allocated spots for the Olympic team so that’s my main priority.”
Birtwhistle topped what was among the most impressive list of achievements in the history of the Tasmanian Athlete of the Year award.
Former winners Amy Cure, Eddie Ockenden, Sarah Hawe and Rebecca Van Asch were also among the nominees along with Jeremy Edwards and Ariarne Titmus.
Titmus, Van Asch and Cure were all multiple gold medallists at Tasmania’s most successful Commonwealth Games.
Titmus, 18, of Launceston, won three golds and one silver medal in the pool, Invermay bowler Van Asch, 30, helped Australia win the women’s triples and fours while Cure, 25, of West Pine, claimed two track cycling golds.
Hobartians Ockenden, 31, and Jeremy Edwards, 26, helped the Kookaburras maintain their record of having won every Commonwealth hockey title.
And Hawe, 31, of Huon Rowing Club, added a world championship silver medal in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, to the gold she won a year earlier.