Like the mighty ocean gods from which they take their name, the Gold Coast Tritons have sent a clear message from across the sea that local triathletes will be a force to be reckoned with in the mixed team relay event at the 2020 Olympics.
The Tritons, Australia’s only franchise in the elite US-based Major League Triathlon (MLT) finished an impressive fourth overall after placing fifth in the final leg of the four-event series in North Carolina last weekend.
The mixed relay format sees two males and two females per team each complete a 300-metre swim, a 6-7-kilometre bike leg and a 1.5-kilometre run. The event was trialled at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and will make its Olympics debut in Tokyo.
MLT has been running in the US since 2015, and CEO Dan Cassidy said they invited Triathlon Australia to enter a team after the Aussies won relay gold at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
“The Gold Coast was invited because Australia’s a world leader in this race format and they’ve got one of the best opportunities to medal at the 2020 Olympics,” Cassidy said.
With crowd numbers and live stream views of MLT skyrocketing, Cassidy said the Gold Coast’s reputation as a stellar sports destination was spreading.
“We’ve given the Gold Coast tremendous exposure here in the US, further solidifying the city as a leader in triathlon and contributing to the amazing sporting legacy it already enjoys.”
MLT's CEO Dan Cassidy
“We’d love to showcase MLT on the Gold Coast too, and I know our fans and athletes would love to travel there to see the beauty first hand.”
Whilst not all Tritons members are based in Queensland, Lisa Pringle, Triathlon Australia’s National Manager says making the Gold Coast the team’s home was the logical choice.
“As most people know, a lot of triathlon champions, great events and participants reside in Queensland,” Pringle said.
“And importantly we had the full support of the City of Gold Coast and the Australian Olympic Committee, who knew this was a great way to prepare our athletes for Tokyo.”
Following the success of GC2018, the Gold Coast is not only enjoying the economic benefits of hosting major sporting events like the ITU World Triathlon, the Australian Transplant Games and the World Parachuting Championships, but local athletes and residents have better access to opportunities to exercise, train, compete and live a healthier lifestyle.
“The Triathlon World Championships brought 5000 visitors here for over a week, so there’s no doubt the economic impact and reinvestment into the local community is enormous,” Pringle said.
“But having athletes and events like this here also helps give the community images about the benefits of healthy, active lifestyles, whether you’re an elite athlete or not.”
She said with its stunning outdoor environments, incredible weather, world-class facilities and positive, healthy vibe, it’s little wonder many triathletes are now calling the Gold Coast home.
One such athlete is Jazz Hedgeland who relocated from Perth with her sister to pursue her sporting dreams.
“You don’t want it to be too cold for early morning rides in winter,” she said.
“The Gold Coast’s weather is ideal, and when we’re running along the beach at 6am there are so many people out exercising it’s really cool and it’s motivating – even for us.”
Hedgeland competed in the first two US races, and said the experience was amazing.
“The team factor definitely adds a whole new spirit and the way they put the event on was excellent,” she said.
Race one in Atlantic City saw the nine teams from the US, Canada, Mexico and Australia battle six-foot waves and winds that broke buoys from their moorings, but the Tritons took the conditions in their stride, finishing second.
In the second and third events they faced the high altitudes of the Colorado mountains, then the heat and dust of Arizona’s desert, and took bronze in both races to sit third overall.
With the final round in Carolina coinciding with the annual Coolangatta Gold, it seemed an omen that the coast’s reputation as Australia’s leading surfing/triathlon/ironman location would be capped off with an inaugural MLT series win – but it wasn’t to be.
“It’s always tough to finish fourth because you’re so close to the podium,” said Hedgeland.
“But our focus was more about preparing for Tokyo, so it’s just great to have been part of it.”
And why the name?
“Triton was the mythical son of Poseidon, God of the sea and leader of mermaids, who could calm or raise the sea with a blast from his mighty conch-shell horn,” Pringle said.
“This really worked with the Gold Coast’s reputation as a coastal paradise and helped us align with the other premier sporting teams on the coast, the Titans (NRL) and the Suns (AFL), who loved the name.”