Matt Hauser has literally picked himself off the floor to charge his way to his best ever World Triathlon Series rankings finish in a memorable 2022 Elite Grand Final debut in Abu Dhabi.
The 24-year-old Gold Coaster “hit the deck” early in the run leg, slipping on the wet road surface – recovering to produce a dramatic finish with a thrilling fifth place – elevating him to sixth overall for the 2022 season in the Maurice Lacroix World Rankings.
It was Hauser’s first ever WTCS Grand Final, with the 2017 World Junior champion, graduating to the Elite field after his bronze medal in the Under 23s last year.
And he made it one to remember, running past New Zealand’s Hayden Wilde in the final 400m of the 10km run, robbing him of his chance to win the overall crown.
It is the best WTCS season point score finish for an Elite Australian Male since Jake Birtwhistle’s third place finish in 2018.
While the fifth-place race finish behind eventual French WTCS winner Leo Bergere, Morgan Pearson (USA), Jelle Geens (BEL) and Olympic silver medallist and Commonwealth Games champion Alex Yee (GBR) saw Hauser claim some big-name scalps.
Finishing ahead of Olympic bronze and Birmingham silver medallist Wilde (6th), former World Champion Vincent Luis (FRA, 7th), 2020 Olympic and former World Champion Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR 8th), 2016 Olympic bronze medallist Henri Schoeman (RSA 11th) and triple Olympic medallist and former World Champion Jonathan Brownlee (GBR 26th).
Some big names to claim in one hectic, pressure-cooker race and the final race of what has been Hauser’s best season on record for the boy from Hervey Bay.
Forty-first out of the swim, Hauser stayed in touch through the rigors of the 40km bike which saw a breakaway of nine riders and a chase group of 40 which included fellow Aussies Luke Willian and Brandon Copeland – ensuring he was well positioned and out of trouble in the charge through transition to the run.
And Wilde revealed later that Hauser had tripped over in front of him.
“Matt actually hit the ground pretty hard, super fortunate to see him come back and I saw him stalking me and we were running at the same pace, and he got me in that last part, and I was really hurting then, and I just had to bring it home,” said Wilde, who finished third overall to Bergere and Yee.
Hauser can hold his head high after his breakthrough season – starting with his fourth place in Yokohama, 26th in Leeds, his career best finish second place in Hamburg, a bronze at the Birmingham Games, 11th in Cagliari and fifth in Abu Dhabi – a year that also saw him finish second overall in the Super League after winning the final race in Saudi Arabia.
Willian hung in for a solid finish in 22nd place in Abu Dhabi with Jake Birtwhistle 44th and Copeland 50th.
The race up front could hardly have been any tighter, and the result certainly could not have been any better for Bergere as a first Series gold of his career sealed a remarkable first world title.
Standing third in the Maurice Lacroix World Rankings heading into the Championship Finals, Bergere knew that only a win could put him close to the trophy. Even then, both Alex Yee and Hayden Wilde had the title in reach.
In fact, both had a hand on the trophy, with 400m to go Wilde was champion until Hauser passed him, Yee was champion until Geens pulled clear into third.
But it was Bergere onto the front pack out of the water and driving the bike, even after the chasers closed in over the final laps, there was no catching him over the 10km run. USA’s Morgan Pearson was piecing together a phenomenal run of his own, scything through the field to hit second, Geens’ late surge to bronze preventing Yee from taking the title, Hauser’s fifth ahead of Wilde preventing the New Zealander doing the same.
Team Australia Results
Matt Hauser 5th
Luke Willian 22nd
Jake Birtrwhistle 44th
Brandon Copeland 50th
Full results can be found here >>