Rio Olympics Countdown: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bermuda, Canada & Czech Republic Polly Hendy July 6, 2016 Feature, News Flash Our Rio Olympics countdown has begun! It’s time to brush up on your athlete knowledge and know exactly who will be toeing the line come August 20th. Join us over the next six weeks as introduce you to all of our Rio bound athletes vying for that illustrious Olympic Gold. Stayed tuned to also find out which Para-triathletes are set to make history in triathlons first Paralympic Games. Text by Debs Pratley, Erin Lockwood, Jordan Blanco, Stef Hanson and Polly Hendy Feature Image by Witsup Australia The bond between Australia and the Olympics is a strong one. With Sydney hosting the first triathlon at the Olympic Games in 2000, it carried the weight of the future of our sport on its shoulders, and since that day, Australia has delivered, and have always come home with their luggage a little heavier than when they arrived – the only country to have achieved a medal at each Games. 2000 Sydney – Silver to Michellie Jones 2004 Athens – Silver to Loretta Harrop 2008 Beijing – Gold to Emma Frodeno (nee Snowsill) and Bronze to Emma Moffatt 2012 London – Bronze to Erin Densham Representing Australia this year are Emma Moffatt, Erin Densham and Ashleigh Gentle. Moffatt and Densham are flying the green and gold flag for the third time and both have Olympic bronze medals on their mantles at home. While Gentle pulls on the Australian tracksuit for the first time at an Olympic Games. Emma Moffatt’s inclusion into the team came in the form of an automatic qualification at the WTS Gold Coast event in April this year, and with a high at Beijing in 2008 with her bronze medal, and a low at London in 2012, crashing out on the bike, Moffatt is keen to take her wealth of experience and strength into Rio. Moffatt’s last time on the podium in a WTS race was last year at Yokohama where she came third to Gwen Jorgensen, and fellow Aussie, Ashleigh Gentle. Erin Densham, who we have affectionately nicknamed, The Rising Phoenix (see her tattoo), has had tough roads to get her to each of her Olympics. Leading into London Olympics, she went on a winning rampage in the final stages of the selection period to claim her spot and came home with the bronze medal in the best triathlon finish we’ve seen, and a similar thing happened in the lead into 2008 Olympics with a win at Ishigaki to claim her Aussie uniform. Densham had struggled to bounce back from London after digging herself a huge hole to get there, and has no significant runs on the board of late, but has been on a steep improvement curve and we suspect she’ll be ready to go in six weeks time. And, Ashleigh Gentle, while new to the Olympics, has showcased that she is a big Aussie hope in Rio. Gentle has had the most success of the Aussie in the past 12 months with two second places on the circuit this year – Abu Dhabi and Yokohama. As the race goes on, Gentle seems to improve, often found chasing out of the swim, but then using superior bike handling skills and strength to make up time. She has proven time and time again that she can run exceptionally well, even off a strong bike. Austria Lisa Perterer Up until recently Perterer trained under the watchful eye of Joel Filliol before moving back home to reignite the coach-athlete relationship with her mother. Not to be phased by this late change in structure, it seems Perterer is happy and relaxed to see out her games preparation in familiar surroundings with a coach who was influential throughout her youth development. Perterer had a successful start to the season, including ninth place at the World Cup race in Australia and third place in China, some encouraging results after her 2015 season was interrupted on numerous occasions by a hip and foot injury. Rounding up 2015 ranked 19th in the world, the focus has always been Rio, and she has previously said how much she likes the heat and hilly courses – something that could work in her favour come August. This will be Perterers second time to the Olympics, and if she gets it right she will definitely be on track to improve on her debut 48th place finish in London four years ago. Sara Vilic Kicking off her Olympic year in style with two impressive results in as many weeks, Vilic bettered her seventh place finish in Abu Dhabi with a fourth in Mooloolaba a week later, remarking that she “couldn’t imagine a better season start.” Her recent 20th place finish in Stockholm last weekend secured her Olympic spot alongside team mate Lisa Perterer. In Mooloolaba she was in the front pack of 10 athletes that put a minute into the chasers, proving that she can ride with the best. If she can replicate this in Rio she has a very good chance of running to secure a top end performance. The well travelled Austrian triathlete spent the beginning of the year training in the warmer conditions of Spain and Stellenbosch, South Africa but will now complete her Rio preparation on the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. Belgium Claire Michel As a young girl, Claire Michel stumbled across an old newspaper clipping – it was of her mother swimming for Belgium in the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games. That was the moment her desire and enthusiasm for the Olympics was born. Michel – now 27, spent her University years in the USA competing in 3000 meters steeplechase and cross-country. Unfortunately, injuries put an end to Michel’s dream of Olympic selection in athletics, but not to be deterred she switched her focus to triathlon late 2012. A high school swimmer in her youth, Michel is improving with every year she spends in the sport. In 2015 she was eighth at the inaugural European Games in Baku and second at the Chengdu World Cup race, earlier this year. Michel is has been fighting to become Belgium’s strongest female athlete for the past three years and she will be keen to build that reputation in Olympic year. Most recently finishing 17th in Stockholm she came across the line just ahead of Australia’s Emma Jackson. Her running ability means that she often makes up considerable ground in the latter part of a race and if she gets into the right pack out of the swim she should be able to deliver a solid performance at Rio. (c) ITU Media | Janos M. Schmidt Katrien Verstuyft Rio will be Katrien Verstuyft’s second time representing Belgium at the Olympic games. On her debut in London (2012) she finished 28th in the field, a position she hopes to improve on in Fort Copacobana. The 33 year old (Atriac Topsport representative) has regularly been in the top 40 of the WTS rankings with her best individual placing being a 14th in Chicago 2014. Her focus this year has been on the race in August and although she raced at Abu Dhabi, Gold Coast and Yokohama her results reflected the heavy training block she has been undergoing. The strength of Belgium’s triathletes are developing every year as they send four athletes (two men and two women) to this years Rio Games. Verstuyft is delighted not to be the sole representative from Belgium this time round and will be aiming to demonstrate the progress she has made come August. Bermuda Flora Duffy Claiming her first WTS win just last weekend in Stockholm all eyes will be on this Bermudan athlete – come “games” time. Duffy will be making her third Olympic appearance in Rio this summer, which is an impressive feat for the 28 year old. The two-time Xterra World Champion has been lighting up the ITU circuit this season with her stellar swim-bike skills. Her gutsy race from the front attitude was finally rewarded as she broke the tape in Saturdays race, solidifying her number one ranking in the World Triathlon Series. Duffy is preparing for Rio out of Boulder, Colorado – her home base of sorts for the past six years. “It is a second home to me now,” she says, “I have a really great training group here, headed up my coach (Neal Henderson) – and the group is a mix of ITU, Olympic and 70.3 athletes.” She’s excited for the Rio course – recognizing that the challenging hill which they ride eight times could split the field early, but pointing to the ocean surf conditions as a race feature not to be dismissed. “The swim conditions will play a decisive role in the race,” explains Duffy, “because a big swell might just be rolling in come race day.” She’s predicting a breakaway of five or six girls containing medal contenders and a chase group with the likes of Swiss athlete and reigning gold medalist from the London Olympics, Nicola Spirig. While she can make predictions, Duffy is smart enough to prepare for every eventuality and as she says, who knows how the race will evolve: “it is the Olympics – strange and special things happen.” Canada Kirsten Sweetland Sweetland (27), is possibly the most well known of the Canadian trio heading this years Olympic Games. She was the first Canadian female athlete to win a World Junior Championship (2006) and secured a podium position at the Commonwealth Games in 2014. Her 2014 season was her best to date with a podium finish in Hamburg showing the ability of this young Canadian, when on form. Unfortunately Sweetland suffered from a series of injuries and illnesses sidelining her 2015 season, meaning she only toed the line on three occasions. However she did manage to race the Rio test event, which will have given her invaluable experience over the course heading into her debut Olympics. Back on track in 2016 she returned to the World Triathlon Series in May and although a 31st placing wasn’t a career highlight, she would’ve been happy to be back racing following an interrupted few years. “This means everything to me. It’s so much sweeter after the struggle I have had over the last 10 years to get here,” said Sweetland in a Canadian Olympic Committee release. “After a breakout season in 2014, and then facing an unimaginable amount of health issues, I never lost sight of my dream. To say it’s been tough would be an understatement, but I have never been happier.” Amélie Kretz Even though Amélie Kretz is the youngest of the Canadian trio at 23, she began her international career as a junior in 2010 and definitely isn’t short of an impressive race resume. After a stellar U23 career, Kretz who now trains with Jamie Turner and the well renowned Wollongong Wizards, is now earning her respect amongst the Elite Womens field. She earned her second (World Cup) career podium in 2015 over the Mooloolaba course and posted her first top 10 finish on the World Triathlon Series in London. Two solid top ten results in 2016 at Yokohama and New Plymouth races prove she’s definitely one to watch at the pointy end of the field in Rio. “It is absolutely surreal and a tremendous honour to be named on the team with the other athletes, also going to their first Games. We are all quite close so it will be great to share this with them. Sarah-Anne and I rented out a house together this fall and I brought an Olympic flag that I hung in the kitchen – so we had breakfast under the flag dreaming about Rio together.” Sarah-Anne Brault Another athlete from the stable of Jamie Turner’s Wollogong Wizards, Sarah-Anne Brault (26) already has five top-15 finishes on the World Triathlon circuit and was a reserve for the 2012 Olympic team. In 2014 she posted career-best results in WTS races, finishing fourth in Auckland (a course known to replicate the challenging nature of the Rio 2016 venue) and seventh in Yokohama, before competing at her first Commonwealth Games. This years results have show she is on track for a promising performance come Rio. “I’ve seen a lot of ups and downs over the last few years, but I’m very happy I was able to build throughout this season to some solid results. I was thrilled and relieved at the same time to get the official call that i’d been nominated for Team Canada. I’m looking forward to seizing this opportunity to get even better and having my best result of the year in Rio, on a course I really enjoy. We are quite young and inexperienced at the Games level, but everyone’s been racing the best in the world every few weeks, learning and improving so I know we are hungry for more.” Czech Republic Vendula Frintova Originally from a swimming background, Frintova (32) made the transition to triathlon in 2001. The Czech superstar who trains with Joel Filliol and the “JFT crew” has previously won numerous National titles, a Duathlon World Championship as well as gold at the 2010 World Cup in Mooloolaba. She is undoubtably a regular and consistent performer, being one of only three athletes to have competed in every WTS race in 2015. As well as being a familiar face on the start-line, Frintova proves her place by regularly delivering solid performances. Throughout her career, she has achieved 37 top ten positions, with five gold medals and competed in 75 ITU competitions. At her most recent race in Stockholm, she finished in ninth place with a time of 2:05:26. This will be her third Olympic games, representing her country – previously competing in both Beijing and London. In the 2012 Olympic Games in London she finished a respectable 15th, but her 2016 campaign has already been a promising one, rarely placing outside the top 10 – definitely an athlete to keep your eye on in Rio! Next up meet the athletes from Ecuador, Estonia, France and Great Britain… Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName Email Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.