Rookie Kira Hedgeland will get a “second bite” at her World Triathlon Series debut when the 2022 WTS returns to one of its iconic venues in Hamburg this weekend – only three weeks after the 2021 champions were crowned in Edmonton.
And she will be joined by fellow Australian team mates, Natalie Van Coevorden the best performed Australian who was 14th in the just concluded 2021 Series, Emma Jackson and Charlotte McShane – with Jackson returning for the ninth time and 10 years after one of the most famous finishes in Australian triathlon history.
The 23-year-old Gold Coast-based Hedgeland made her official Series debut in Montreal at the end of what was dubbed “The Season Like No Other” in the inaugural Super Sprint format where she was 25th.
But a quick turn around for the start of the new season and it’s a fitting second debut race for the 20th Anniversary race in the triathlon-friendly down town precinct of the picturesque Germany city of Hamburg that presents a Sprint race format.
The Dan Atkins coached Hedgeland, agonisingly fourth in the Under 23 World Championships in Edmonton just a week after her Montreal debut is chomping at the bit.
Coming off a successful debut season with Lievin Triathlon Club in the French Grand Prix, Hedgeland is not only looking at a return to “normal racing” but also an opportunity to race the Mixed Team Relay.
“For Hamburg, I am so excited. It is a beautiful place and I’ve heard many good things about the atmosphere that this race has,” said Hedgeland.
“There is an opportunity to earn a spot in the Australia Mixed Team Relay, so there are multiple reasons to have a great race.
“I almost feel like this is my real WTS debut as Montreal was the super sprint format, so I am looking forward to seeing how I go in a ’normal’ race.”
And she is in career bests running form after clocking a personal best 5km time (Off The Bike) in her second French GP outing.
“My second place in Quiberon was a pleasant surprise, it was cool to have a good race for not just myself but my team too,” said Hedgeland.
“Then Saint Jean De Monts I finished eighth, in a stronger field so I was glad to still be competitive.
“So coming off those races they have given me confidence in my three disciplines.
“I had really good swim starts and solid swims in both races, I felt comfortable on the bike and ran really well in both races and my fastest 5k OTB ever in Saint Jean De Monts.
“(Working on) aspects like my individual tactics and strategies that you only pick up with racing, as well as them being sprint distance, like Hamburg makes me feel (even) more ready.”
And while Hedgeland will be making her Hamburg debut, for 30-year-old London Olympian, Jackson, it will be a return to one of her happiest hunting grounds – 14 years after her debut at the 2007 World Championships as a junior.
And what is the 10th anniversary of the day Jackson figured in the famous “Emma, Emma, Emma” finish in 2011 which saw 2008 Olympic bronze medallist Emma Moffatt on top of the podium for Australia ahead of Jackson ( the year before her Olympic debut in London) with Beijing gold medallist Emma Snowsill filling the all-Australian all-Emma podium.
It was one of the most memorable days in the World Triathlon Series – a history-making finish for Australia’s Emmas and appropriate that Jackson lines up as only one of two survivors of that race this weekend, alongside Italy’s Alice Betto, who was 19th that day 10 years ago.
Interesting to note that also in that field in 2011 were three girls who would become the next three Olympic champions – Nicola Spirig (Switzerland, 2012 in London who was 12th); Gwen Jorgensen (USA, 2016 in Rio who was 27th) and Flora Duffy (Bermuda, 2020 in Tokyo who was 41st).
Meanwhile local hero, Germany’s Laura Lindemann – a two-time bronze medallist and winner of the silver in 2018, will wear the number one on a course she knows and loves. A former Junior and U23 World Champion, there isn’t much that the 25-year-old hasn’t already achieved in her young career. A Series gold is one of them, however, and to earn it from the front on home turf would be extra special.
While the full calendar for the 2022 season will be released at the end of the year, get ready for a new season with a mix of great stars of the sport and a collection of breakthrough talents.
The sprint-distance course will feature the 750m swim in the Binnenalster lake featuring the 40m long stretch under the dark bridge tunnel section; followed by six laps of a tight bike course with two 180-degree turns and all wrapped up in a 5km run that finishes in front of the iconic Rathaus Town Hall.
The men’s race will feature two Australians in Brandon Copeland and Marcel Walkington with Copeland in solid form after finishing tenth in Montreal, backing up for 13th in the Edmonton World Series grand final.
He too has been in France polishing his skills for Hamburg, racing in the French GP series with Hedgeland.
“I have put in a few solid weeks of training over the last few weeks since Edmonton adding in some French Grand Prix racing thrown into the mix, “said Copeland.
“I was able to put together some good races while keeping one eye on the prize here this weekend in Hamburg.
“It’s been great to be reminded of the speed required to be competitive in a sprint distance race ahead of what will be a super fast weekend of racing.
For me I need to set my day up with a good swim and positioning myself well on the bike. I’m confident if I can execute on these two factors then I’ll be in with a shot on the run.”
The coveted number one will be worn by Frenchman Leo Bergere in his fifth outing in Hamburg. Having never finished outside the top 10 and scooping the bronze last year, Bergere will be a man on a mission for a first Series gold this time around and flush with confidence after back-to-back podiums in Montreal and Edmonton.
The only man on the start line to have tasted victory at the top level is Casper Stornes who spearheaded that remarkable Norwegian podium sweep at the inaugural WTCS Bermuda in 2018. After disappointment in Tokyo, Stornes arrives fresh from winning the 70.3 world title in Nice and would love to register a second Series gold here.