The Gold Coast’s Tokyo Olympian Matt Hauser and 27-year-old rookie Sophie Linn have today secured automatic nominations to the Commonwealth Games Australia (CGA) for this year’s Birmingham Games.
Hauser, on the day of his 24th birthday, is poised for his second Commonwealth Games while for Linn – who only started her triathlon career in 2018, produced a day that dreams are made of.
The Gold Coast Triathlon, with the first nominations the lure for Australia’s leading triathletes, threw up contrasting stories that could well bring the men’s and women’s victors together on the Australian team after a stunning day out on Southport’s Broadwater Parklands.
Hauser, who has carried the expectation of becoming a world class performer since his impressive junior achievements, has put himself in the picture to improve on his fourth place finish at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
He left no doubt his new attitude towards what it takes to become an elite performer is set to provide dividends for the exciting 24-year-old.
However, the impressive performance of late bloomer Linn – was less expected – a girl who only started her career the same year Hauser made his Games debut four years ago.
Linn shocked not just her rivals but many keen judges as she grabbed pole position for the all-important automatic nomination to the CGA for the right to represent Australia in Birmingham in July.
The US-based Linn who prepared for today’s race with solid hit outs in both the Devonport and Mooloolaba Oceania Cups, upstaged sisters Kira Hedgeland and Jaz Hedgeland, Natalie Van Coevorden and Charlotte McShane.
Linn, the former long distance track and cross country runner, who was also a Nationally-ranked junior swimmer, only took up triathlon after she graduated from college in the US in 2018.
And she has had to overcome an Achilles rupture suffered just over eight months ago and the need to train in the mountains of Colorado, often with her former professional bike riding boyfriend Alexey Vermeulen while working full-time, to become a genuine dark horse for the Birmingham Games.
“I’m in disbelief, honestly,” said Linn, who had raced only twice since November 2019 before returning to Australia on February 20 to embark on her all-or-nothing Commonwealth Games selection campaign.
“I broke down at the line. That whole last lap I kept thinking ‘it is in reach but try to stay focused’. It’s like a day that an athlete dreams of when everything just goes perfectly.
“And to do it on a day that counts. It means the world. It has really been a tough two years; I got COVID and then soon after I was injured last year.
“I’m still fairly new to the sport and I felt like I have been training hard but haven’t had the result really to prove where I am at.
“That result today is one I have been yearning for a couple of years.”
Linn beat WA-born Gold Coast-based Kira Hedgeland home by 11 seconds after leading into the run following an impressive transition from a strong bike leg.
McShane, a Commonwealth Games representative from 2018, was a fast finishing third with Van Coevorden fourth and Tokyo Olympian Jaz Hedgeland eighth home.
Like in the Oceania Cup race in Devonport that he won impressively in February, Hauser found himself out in front on his own for just about all of the 5km run leg and, while he was surprised the race home was not more “tactical”, he admitted it was the position he enjoyed.
Hauser beat home fellow Tokyo team mate and main rival, Tasmanian Jake Birtwhistle by 30 seconds, with the ACT’s Callum McClusky running a great race to finish third, ahead of Kingscliff’s Gold Coast-based Brandon Copeland next to finish.
“There wasn’t as much hustle and bustle at T2, so I had a clear run, leading from the front is perhaps the best offence there is,” said Hauser.
“It’s familiar territory here on the Broadwater and that fourth place here in 2018 (Commonwealth Games) is still in my mind and will be pushing me towards to podium at Birmingham.
“I’ve become more professional and changing the mindset about what I have to do to become an elite triathlete.
“Part of that is knowing I am amongst the future of triathlon Australia and I have that baton to hold going into the next few Games.
“It was against top opposition today and there was a lot at stake.
“I have been chasing Jake (Birtwhistle) for a few years now and it makes me really proud [to beat him] but we have to work towards the world stage – that’s where the competition is at and hopefully we can do that, as a collective group, and show we’re a force again.”