After a long 21 months abroad Natalie Van Coevorden will return to racing on home soil this Sunday and she hopes it will forge a pathway towards the Commonwealth Games and Paris Olympics in 2024.
Van Coevorden will make her first appearance in the Mooloolaba 2022 Oceania Triathlon Cup – where she last raced back in March 2020.
The 29-year-old reunited recently with her family in Campbelltown, south west of Sydney and she now has her immediate sights set on the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games and her longer term goal to fulfill her Olympic dream.
Birmingham being the perfect stepping stone she says for an Olympic debut in the City of Light – with Paris a second home for Van Coevorden who has spent the past eight years with her French club team Poissy Triathlon.
“Last year was pretty rocky for me with highs and lows but this weekend in Mooloolaba is a good opportunity to race for myself,” said Van Coevorden.
“I’m going to try prove to myself that I still have what I knew I had last year.
“I didn’t make the (Olympic) team so it would be really nice to qualify for a major Games in 2022 (in Birmingham) and that’s obviously a really good stepping stone leading into Paris in 2024.
“The Commonwealth Games is a really good milestone midway before Paris in a shortened cycle and gives me another goal to hit, even though there are plenty more goals along the way.
“You can never complain about making a major Games team for Birmingham .... it’s going to be a big few years and hopefully this year can be the start of those years for me.”
Selection on the team for Paris would be another special “home coming” for Van Coevorden and her French Connection.
“My French team is close to Paris, just 40 minutes away and I always think like that’s my home,” said Van Coevorden, who trains in Portugal and Spain and has a partner in Hamburg.
“I have raced over there and been part of that team in Poissy for the past eight years so it would also feel like another home race for me.
“It will be pretty exciting to stage the Olympics in such a beautiful city and it will be a really cool Games to be a part of.
Van Coevorden will also be re-united this weekend with her former long-time friend and training partner Charlotte McShane when she lines up in the Mooloolaba Standard Distance Oceania Cup (1.5km swim; 40km bike; 10km run).
And the two senior elites of Australian triathlon will face a host of youngsters determined to keep them honest, including last month’s Devonport winner Matilda Offord, alongside Emma Hogan, Jessica Ewart-McTigue, Milan Agnew and Georgie Fredricks who all have their eyes on automatic section for the Under 23 World Championship Team for Abu Dhabi in November.
And it was the lure of the Commonwealth Games which saw Rio Olympian Ryan Fisher decide to have one final crack at World Triathlon racing before calling it quits.
He will return to Mooloolaba en-route to the Commonwealth Games selection races on the Gold Coast and Yokohama.
“The Commonwealth Games is the one major I haven’t done – I went to the Olympics in Rio and I’ve been to World Championships so the Commonwealth’s is one last thing I’d like to do in triathlon,” said 30-year-old Fisher, hampered by a stress fracture last year and who has not raced in an WT race for over two years.
“Outside the Olympics is the next biggest thing and in triathlon two of the three podium finishers from Tokyo, Alex Yee (England) and Hayden Wilde (New Zealand) are Commonwealth athletes and throw in the Aussies, the other Brits, Kiwis and Canadians and it’s red hot.
“If you do well there then you know you are on track to do well come Paris; in triathlon it’s competitive, so it’s a good one to be able to do.
“For me Sunday will be like turning the clock back 10 years – it has been so long since I have been to an WT race and be actually ready to race – I’m here now to try and do something for myself.
“And to find out where my conditioning really is. As everyone knows you can train the house down but unless you can do something in a race no one really cares, so I need to get a gauge of where I’m at.
“And I’m fully aware that the sport has revolutionised realistically every year in the last few years and it seems to be considerably different in the way races are raced and won.
“I don’t want to be naïve to the thought that it’s going to be the same as it was the last time I was racing World Series and World Cups because I really don’t think it is.”
And like Van Coevorden, Fisher knows that there will be young bloods out to make a name for themselves, led by former Mooloolaba Cup winner and 2018 Commonwealth Games rep Luke Willian and a hungry group of Under 23s Luke Bate, Lorcan Redmond and Sydney’s twin turbo brothers Luke Schofield and Jayden Schofield who also have their sights on the U23 World Champion selection.