Reinvigorating grassroots clubs and making the most of the sport's golden boy Jake Birtwhistle are among the priorities of Triathlon Australia's first female president.
Appointed in November, Brisbane's Michelle Cooper made her first visit to Launceston last month ahead of the weekend's Oceania triathlon championships in Devonport.
The trip was one of many she plans to make to Tasmania this year, and comes as the national body sets about making the pathway to the sport's top flight easier to navigate for athletes.
"Part of what we’re trying to do at the moment is reinvigorate some of our clubs and our coaching processes, so we're holding a coaching qualification course down here in June which is the first time we’ve done that," Cooper said.
"We’re bringing that into Tassie rather than people interested in that having to go to Victoria for example - that’s part of our investment to be able to make sure athletes have the resources they need.
"We’re also on a pretty big pathway to ensuring we’ve got some more world championship races in Australia somewhere, and that will then give us opportunity to have qualification races in all of our states so we want to make sure Tassie’s one of those.
"We want to make sure that we’ve always got those where possible to allow people to qualify locally to represent Australia somewhere else."
Having held the role of vice-president before taking on the top job, Cooper has had plenty to do with Launceston's top triathlon export and is only too aware of the sway the 24-year-old Commonwealth Games gold medallist has in the sport.
Cooper said Birtwhistle was continuing Tasmania's proud tradition of "punching way above its weight" in triathlon and commended the former Riverside High student on his willingness to stay involved at a local level.
Birtwhistle was guest of honour at last year's all-schools triathlon in Devonport, and competed in a number of Northern races for fundraising purposes over the summer.
"There’s no getting away from the fact that Jake is the best that we have at the moment," Cooper said.
"People like Jake are instrumental in not only promoting our sport but being able to advocate and influence what happens within our sporting environment.
"Jake is fantastic at being involved in the local scene - he’s here at the moment still doing some training and getting involved at a grassroots level, and that comes from both the culture of his family and his club and is not dissimilar to what a lot of our athletes bring in.
"They understand they come up through the grassroots and they’re happy to start giving back to the community when they get to the stage that Jake’s at.
"He’s got a lot on his mind with Tokyo next year and qualification for that kicking off, so we try to be really respectful of that in managing our expectations of him but he’s very willing to always help when we need it, particularly around juniors."
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