March 29, 2018

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Get ready for the Commonwealth Games

Commonwealth Games

For many athletes, the Commonwealth Games is the major aim of 2018. With the race being held in the middle of April it has meant many have had to change their approach to the season and not just peak for the WTS Grand Final but try and peak at the beginning of the year as well.

We saw that Abu Dhabi attracted a world-class field and although the tricky conditions made for an eventful race, it showed that many athletes were already firing on all cylinders, or certainly would be in a month’s time. Between Abu Dhabi and the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, many athletes have used the 'local' World Cups (Mooloolaba and New Plymouth) to hone their race skills. However, for the paratriathletes, it will be a test on the day with very few if any opportunities to race beforehand. These athletes will have to have complete faith that they got their winter right and see what happens on race day!

The Commonwealth Games is usually contested over the Olympic distance; however this year the athletes will race over the sprint distance, drastically changing the dynamic of the race. Some countries have even altered their line up to best approach the shorter distance. As we saw in Glasgow the relays also feature, meaning some nations will purely aim at this race, thinking there lies their best chance at a medal!

Paratriathlon is a new event for the Games this year, but as in all paratriathlon events this race will be contested over a sprint distance. The course on the Gold Coast is flat and relatively straightforward which will set up for some fast and fierce racing amongst the Commonwealth nations. With the races starting on the first day of the games, it gives extra incentive for athletes to get their national first medal!

Men's race

At first, you would assume clear favourites for the men’s race would be the Brownlee brothers, the double Olympic and Commonwealth medallists are near unbeatable when it comes to major games. The sprint distance and Alistair’s absence from the WTS circuit may provide the chance for others to cause an upset. In Glasgow, the brothers got a break out of the water and on to the bike. They worked tirelessly and put even more time into the chasing pack, and the run was somewhat of a procession. This year, however, the gaps could be less, and with some athletes now matching the brothers on the run, it will be vital they prevent the British duo from gaining an insurmountable gap after the swim-bike. As Alistair and Jonny showed in Leeds WTS in 2017 when they get this right they are practically unbeatable.

Other favourites for the race will be the South African pair of Henri Schoeman and Richard Murry. Murry was third in Glasgow, but it is probably Schoeman who currently has the best form. In Abu Dhabi, he was supreme in the tricky conditions and ran away with the race against a stacked field, many of whom he’ll be racing on the Gold Coast.

A few other names to mention are Australia’s Jake Birtwhistle; he will possibly be labelled as the quickest runner who lines up, coming from a running background with various national titles. He can delivery a mighty fast 5000m. England’s Tom Bishop has a chance of getting on the podium if he nails down a good race. He managed his first WTS podium in 2017 and was consistent all year. 2018 didn’t start as he planned with a crash at Abu Dhabi, but a top 10 swim and one of fastest run shows he’s in good shape! Other HUUB athletes racing include Grant Sheldon (SCO), Matthew Wright (BAR) Wian Sullwald (RSA) and Tyler Butterfield (BER).

Women’s race

As with the men’s race, there is a standout favourite, Bermuda’s Flora Duffy. She was near unbeatable in 2017 with six WTS wins to her name, the majority of which came from swim-bike breakaways, but over the last two years she has worked on her run and she now regularly has one of the fastest run splits – a near perfect combination. 2018 didn’t start as she had liked with a crash putting an end to her race in Abu Dhabi, but she’ll still remain favourite for many.

Women’s racing has changed from a sport dictated by the fast runners, now to one driven by swim-bike breakaways. It looks almost inevitable that this years Commonwealth games will follow the same script. If this is the case, then this puts HUUB’s Jess Learmonth (ENG) in a strong position, having podiumed in her last three WTS events from such breaks. Another athlete that will benefit from a breakaway is also a HUUB and England athlete; Sophie Coldwell. A crash put an end to her chances of a good result at Abu Dhabi, but her ‘two-up’ with Duffy last year in Yokohama will give her faith she can do the same again. It is not a foregone conclusion that the race will result in a breakaway, over the sprint distance gaps will certainly be smaller, and many athletes will be hoping the race comes back together.

Rio 2016’s Bronze medallist Vicky Holland and fourth-placed finisher Non Stanford have both won numerous WTS titles between them and will line up with hopes of medaling. Holland was second in Glasgow behind England’s Jodie Stimpson which shows the British know how to win major titles. Other athletes to consider will be the Australian contingent of Ashleigh Gentle (arguably the fastest runner in the field), Charlotte McShane and Gillian Backhouse. Scottish hopes will lie with HUUB athlete Beth Potter, having represented Team GB for 10,000 at the Rio Olympics she’ll have a lot a people worrying about her on the run! There is also a veteran of the sport Andrea Hewitt (NZL), if she gets it right on the day, she will undoubtedly be up at the front of the race.

Paratriathlon races

HUUB have a good contingent of Paratriathletes heading to the Gold Coast despite only the wheelchair category being included in the games. Rio’s 6th place finisher Joe Townsend comes off the back of two podium finishes in his last two WPTS races in 2017. If he’s put in another good winter, he’ll be fighting for the win. In the women’s race there is Jade Jones, a relative newcomer to the sport, but having competed on the track in the last two Paralympics, she has soon adapted to the sport of triathlon and will start as a favourite for a podium. Jade will also be competing on the track at the games so will be hoping to bring home medals from two sports! The competition will come from another Team England member, Lizzie Tench, a multiple National Champion and WPTS medallist.

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