A group of Australia’s re-energised elite triathletes are already climbing to greater heights in the countdown to this year’s Birmingham Commonwealth Games under Triathlon Australia’s Podium Centre Head Coach Joel Filliol.
Filliol, regarded as one of the world’s most respected and successful triathlon coaches, has just overseen a four-week training camp with the Podium Centre group in Thredbo, supported by the Commonwealth Games Australia (CGA) Green2Gold2Great program in the countdown to Birmingham 2022.
And the altitude program is high on the priority list for Filliol and his training group that includes Tasmanian Olympian and 2018 Commonwealth Games gold and silver medallist Jake Birtwhistle, his fellow Tokyo teammate Jaz Hedgeland, her emerging sister Kira Hedgeland, 2012 London Olympian Emma Box (nee Jackson) and rising male star Brandon Copeland.
The Thredbo Camp was strategically placed in the countdown to the upcoming Gold Coast Triathlon on Sunday, April 3, the first Commonwealth Games nomination race with the winners in the Oceania Cup over the Sprint Course (750m swim; 20km bike and 5km run) earning themselves an automatic nomination to CGA.
“The Commonwealth Games comes as the number one goal for the athletes this year and in triathlon, Commonwealth countries are traditionally quite strong and it is an important stepping stone to the Paris Games,” said Gold Coast-based Filliol.
“It’s a multi sport environment with the Village, accreditation and all the organisation that you have to deal with, an important part of the development of our athletes.
“Managing all those things and still focusing on their performance (is the key) and while they also look at the World Triathlon Series (WTCS) and the Grand Final as (among) their goals, primarily for so many of the athletes it’s the Commonwealth Games which remains the main focus.
“The support that Commonwealth Games Australia provides for our programs like this altitude camp throughout the four-year cycle is really important.”
And Filliol’s altitude strategy will play a role in the Birmingham lead up and ultimately the roll out to Paris.
“We are really looking at implementing an altitude strategy in the lead up to the Paris Games,” said Filliol.
“And Thredbo with a moderate altitude and access to the 50m pool there totally ticked the boxes we were looking for.
“It has a good natural environment where you get a lot of hill climbing on the bike and you end up doing a variety of different elevations in the course of your running and riding in particular.
“We had the athletes go up to Kosciuszko and riding up Charlotte’s Pass so it was a success in that sense.
“It provided a lot of metres (clocked) climbing and that usually means going up and down hills.
“We will be keen to go back next year and hopefully with a bigger group.
“So part of the Paris strategy is to incorporate more altitude exposure through the year so we will have several other camps with the group I’m involved with doing another camp in France in May.
“And then there will be others coming from that group that will do another little boost before the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.”
Filliol’s appointment, alongside the creation of the Triathlon Australia Podium Centre, is a key strategic element of the high performance plan towards Paris 2024, Los Angeles 2028 and Brisbane’s home Olympics in 2032.
Filliol’s appointment comes alongside the already established QLD Performance Centre under Head Coach Dan Atkins and the newly created NSW Performance Centre based on Sydney’s Northern Beaches under Head Coach Liam O’Neill.
“It is a challenge for us; triathlon in Australia is going through an evolution of change in a number of areas,” said Filliol.
“From new strategy to reflecting on Tokyo and how we get things lined up for better performances in Paris.
“It’s not a lot of time and it really does challenge planning and it challenges the athletes and coaches to really lean into that.
“How do we achieve and compete to our potential and what do we need to do differently? Everyone is going to come at that from their own angle, their own space.
“But equally as a sport, an organisation, a system and as a community we also need to find some urgency there.
“And from an honest and authentic point of view we have a lot of work to do and everyone has to play a part in that to get to a point where we can compete with the best in the world - that’s our challenge.
“How do we maximise this time? Remembering it’s not all about Paris.
“We can’t say that Paris is too soon for us to improve - we should be taking the attitude that we need to improve every day and certainly every season and everybody plays a part in that.”