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Jake Birtwhistle anchors Australia to stirring silver in Mixed Relay Worlds in Hamburg

Jake Birtwhistle anchors Australia to stirring silver in Mixed Relay Worlds in Hamburg

Defending champions Australia showed their “never say die spirit” to come from behind with a blinding finish to snatch silver in the ITU Triathlon World Mixed Relay Championship in Hamburg last night.
And it was 23-year-old Commonwealth Games silver medallist Jake Birtwhistle who anchored the Australians home, outsprinting the USA’s Kevin McDowell over the final 100 metres to snatch second place when the Americans looked to have the silver sewn up.
France, the 2015 world champions, were comfortable winners in 1:20.06 with yesterday’s individual WTS winner Cassandre Beaugrand and silver medallist in the men’s Vincent Luis playing major parts in their gold medal effort.
Australia’s 2017 WTS silver medallist Ashleigh Gentle set Birtwhistle up in an impressive third leg after debutant Natalie Van Coevorden started for the Australians.
Van Coevorden, eighth in the WTS Hamburg individual race on Saturday, earned her place and did her job in what was a helter skelter start.
She handed over to a revitalised Rio Olympian, Newcastle’s Aaron Royle who laid it all on the line to keep the Australians in the hunt.
“It’s not over till it’s over… good teams rise up and in the end little things can build up to big things and that’s what happened today,” Royle said.
“We learned after WTS in Nottingham that is not over til it’s over and here it was true once again.
“We decided that we needed to get going, we made it and made it to the podium”.

At the final handover, it was France, in the form of experienced campaigner Luis, who had a slender advantage over the USA, Britain’s Tom Bishop (10 seconds behind) and all alone in third.

USA anchor Kevin McDowell delivered an excellent swim and left T2 alongside Luis, but once the Frenchman found his rhythm, he began to pull away. 

And it was Birtwhistle who picked up where Gentle had left off and with the bit between his teeth, the Australian attacked hard to leave Japan’s Makoto Odakura behind and make inroads on Bishop, overtaking him with 2km still to go in a powerful piece of time trial riding.

Onto the run, Luis had a 30-second lead over McDowell and Birtwhistle was a further 30 seconds behind. 

With half a minute to make up over 1.5km, the Australian had more than bronze on his mind, however, streaking away from Bishop, gaining on McDowell and eventually catching him right down the chute to record an exceptional silver after France had secured their World title in style. 

“It was a tough finish,” said Birtwhistle. “I really didn’t have much of an idea how far McDowell was ahead.
“But when I could see he was starting to struggle I thought ‘I’ll have a crack here’ and I was happy to (just) pip him in the last 100 metres.” Gentle said team work was the key.

“We worked together really well as Team Australia and that paid off,” said Gentle, “You have to fight for every second and we saw what can happen with Jake’s final sprint.”
While debutant Van Coevorden said: It was fast, exciting and a race where every second counts … I’m just pleased to be part of the team for 2018 and proud to wear the green and gold.”
Meanwhile, Triathlon Australia Performance Director Justin Drew was quick to praise France and the determination of his own team, that has developed into one of the best teams in the world, winning gold and now three silvers over the past four years.
“Congrats to the French team, they were very impressive today and they did an outstanding job and deserve to stand on top of the podium,” said Drew.
“The Mixed Relay has become a very serious event (and it will make its debut in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo) with the level of competition improving every time we race, and it will continue to go up.
“It shows how serious we are and the fact that we have not had the same roster in any of these races.
“We have had some changes in our rosters through that time which shows our depth.
“Our team today all raced to their capacity; they all did their jobs and we saw again a relay is a game of inches and it’s never over till it’s over.
“This is now becoming one of the great sporting events where there are high stakes, high pressure and it’s a great event, a global event which will continue to grow.”


Results: Mixed Relay


Team I France




Team I Australia




Team I United States




Team I Great Britain




Team I Netherlands