Three members of the Birmingham-bound Commonwealth Games team have combined to spearhead Australia to a timely silver medal performance at the World Triathlon Championship Series Mixed Relay in Hamburg overnight.
Matt Hauser, Sophie Linn and Natalie Van Coevorden were joined by 2018 Gold Coast team member Luke Willian to snatch a solid second place finish behind Great Britain with Germany, after serving a 20 second penalty, hanging on for third.
Van Coevorden, who was forced to withdraw from Saturday’s WTC Series race after a mechanical mishap early on in the bike, brought the Australians home in the dramatic dying stages.
British anchor Katie Waugh and Germany’s in-form Laura Lindemann had opened up a narrow lead over Van Coevorden in the final run leg but the Australian sped past her German counterpart who was forced to spend 20 seconds in the penalty box – for her team mates “untidy” misdemeanors in the swim and transition legs.
Van Coevorden was full of running after strong opening legs from Willian, Linn and Hauser keeping the Australians well and truly in the hunt from the start.
Willian, back in the team for the first time since 2019, tagged debutant Linn in third as the New Zealand team, led by Olympic bronze medallist and Series leader Hayden Wilde set a cracking pace.
Linn, who has had a whirlwind injection into the WTCS, hung on for her leg of the 300m swim, 7km bike and 1.7km run course, tagging Hauser in a close-up fifth.
And it didn’t take long for Hauser to assert his authority on the field as he took the plunge into the waters of the Alster canal, catching the leaders and making sure he was well and truly in the mix for his two-laps of the bike, with a pumping swim leg.
But it was Hauser’s eye-catching transition from bike to run that really put the Australians in the box seat, Saturday’s Elite Men’s silver medallist then showing all his class with a power-packed run to give Van Coevorden a 12 second lead at the final changeover.
Van Coevorden put her head down on the bike before Waugh and Lindemann combined to reel her in, stealing a march on the Aussie in the two-lap run to the finish.
“Luke, Matt and Sophie put me in such a good position and I knew if I stayed there we had a good chance of the podium today and I am really glad we’re back and it’s great to be part of such a great team,” said Van Coevorden.
“Australians are really persistent and we never give up as we showed today...and hopefully we can lead this towards Paris and we have many, many good athletes to lead us with a great team and I am really proud of everyone today.”
Hauser was quick to praise his team mates, saying, “I got well set up by Luke and Sophie early on and Nat finished really strong and we are so stoked to be on the beer shower again today...”
And Willian reflected, “the last time I raced the relay was 2019 so it was great to be back in the team and to get away with a podium is amazing, everyone did so well.”
While Linn admitted, “it was so much fun, Luke gave me such a good start and I knew Matt (Hauser) was coming off his second place yesterday, it was so, so good.”
The second place finish will be a huge confidence booster for Birmingham where the 2018 Commonwealth Games champions will face a tough battle to defend their crown when they will again face the might of England, Scotland, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa in only the third Mixed Relay since the event was introduced to the program in Glasgow in 2014.
2022 World Triathlon Championship Series Hamburg | Mixed Relay
Results: Mixed Relay
1. Great Britain 1:20:50
2. Australia 1:21:03 (Willian, Linn, Hauser, Van Coevorden)
3. Germany 1:21:10
4. Switzerland 1:21:26
5. New Zealand 1:22:12