Triathlon star Javier Gomez has given the Geelong 70.3 race a major boost by making it his season-opening event.
The five-time Olympic-distance world champion, two-time 70.3 world champion and London Olympics silver medallist is one of the sport's most decorated athletes.
Gomez will open his 2019 campaign on February 17 in Geelong as he changes tack, opting for more short-course racing again ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
The 35-year-old switched to Ironman last year and Gomez's most recent major race was his much-anticipated debut at Hawaii in October, where he finished 11th.
Gomez will try to reclaim the 70.3, or half-Ironman, world title later this year as well as focusing on Olympic-distance events as he tries to return to the strong Spanish team.
It has a been a big few months for Gomez, after his December marriage to New Zealand triathlete Anneke Jenkins in her home country.
Gomez's main aim in Geelong will be to validate his spot for the September 7-8 70.3 world titles in Nice, France.
"This is my first time in Geelong, so I want give my best on race day and then see how it goes," he said.
"It is a race that I have been looking at since years ago and now it will be finally possible to make it happen. I am very excited to race in Australia again.
"Validating in Geelong is my first priority but after that I will return to the Olympic distance for the first part of the season and will be focused on the ITU World Triathlon Series Olympic (distance) races."
Australian Sam Appleton has won the last two Geelong 70.3 races.
The women's field will also be strong, with Sydney-based Czech Radka Kahledfeldt and Swiss Caroline Steffen, who also has strong Australian connections, among the starters.
Australian Associated Press