Western Australia’s Rhianna Hepburn has spent the past year with one goal in mind - the World Junior Triathlon Championships in Hamburg.
Last year, the teenager had fulfilled automatic qualification for the Australian Junior team for the World Championships in Montreal, only to be forced to withdraw from the team after a training accident - not even getting to the start line.
This week, she'll don the cherished green and gold triathlon suit at the World Junior Triathlon Championships in Hamburg.
Hepburn has been on the Australian Junior Team’s 2023 European Tour this past fortnight in a pre-World Championships Staging Camp in Osnabruck in the Netherlands – nestled between Holten, where they raced last weekend, and Hamburg.
Holten proved to be more than just a successful lead up for the Aussies with Hepburn winning the 2023 Europe Triathlon Junior Cup and and Brisbane’s 19-year-old Jack Crome men’s Europe Triathlon Junior Cup race. While Brad Course (QLD) unleashing an impressive second-place place finish in the Elite race.
Australia will field a seven-strong Junior team in Hamburg - four men, Course, Crome, Tom Feldmann (QLD) and Mitchell Blackbourn (NSW) and three women; Hepburn, Emma Olson-Keating (NSW) and Alex Field (NSW).
Triathlon Australia’s National Talent Development Coach, Brendan Sexton reflected on the incidents that dashed the hopes of Hepburn on the eve of this week’s Worlds and the lessons of a European tour.
“Rhianna was again an automatic qualifier for the team this year in the Oceania Championship race in Taupo (NZ) and she was able to build her form through to Holten last week,” said Sexton.
“It was her first international race, and she is trying to learn as much she can and to take as much from her teammates as she can, and she is ready to put her best foot forward in Hamburg.
“Rhianna was right up the front in Holten knowing her weapon is her run after being able to put herself in the race from the get-go.
“She was also able to hold her own in the Oceania Cup race in Busselton with the Elites earlier this year and that experience will put her in good stead in Hamburg.
“To have this group of girls who push each other in training, they’re only making each other stronger.
“It’s a real plus for us to have three girls in Rhianna, Alex and Emma who are that strong as a team and not only wanting to get the best out of themselves but to get the best out of each other as an Australian team.”
Hepburn said she had no expectations ahead of her international debut in Holten last weekend.
“To be in the front pack on the bike and to be able to run down most of the girls was a bit of a confidence boost in my first international race as well,” she said.
“It was totally different to any races I had done before so that was fun; there was no expectation or goal in what place I wanted to cross the line so to win was nice.
“I’m looking forward to the experience in Hamburg. To contest my first Junior Worlds will be awesome. To go out there and enjoy it is my main goal.”
Along with their individual Junior Worlds Championships, the Australians will field a team of four from the Junior Team in Saturday’s World Under 23/Junior Mixed Relay World Championship.
You can catch the action from the Women’s Junior World Championship on Friday, July 14, from 12:50 AM AEST on TriathlonLive.