NEWCASTLE’S Aaron Royle is a shock omission from Australia’s triathlon team to compete at next year’s Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.
Australia’s selectors named a new-look squad on Friday and Royle was overlooked in favour of young Queenslanders Luke Willian and Matt Hauser. The other men’s spot had already been sealed by Tasmanian Jake Birtwhistle, who pre-qualified.
Royle’s fate was in the hands of the selectors after he was unable to secure an automatic berth at qualifying events this year.
For both the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and Rio Olympics, he was Australia’s first qualifier, almost 12 months in advance.
This year the 27-year-old – Australia’s top performer at Rio 2016 when he finished ninth – was hampered at the start of the season by a foot injury and then by a virus before a crucial race in Rotterdam.
A top-10 regular on the world rankings for the previous four years, he slipped to 21st this year – one spot below Willian. But, in a sign that he is back to full fitness, he beat Willian by more than 90 seconds in finishing runner-up at the recent Noosa triathlon.
Hauser finished 87th on the international rankings but finished the year as the world junior champion – a title Royle held in 2012.
Royle could possibly have appealed against his non-selection but is understood to have accepted it with good grace and will focus on securing an automatic spot for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
His immediate goal will be this weekend’s Island House International in the Bahamas, promoted as the world’s richest triathlon race.
First-place prizemoney is $US60,000 ($80,000). Last year Royle finished third and came home with $40,000.
He will then compete in the Western Sydney Ironman on Sunday week – his first-ever half-ironman event and a stepping stone towards his dream of racing in the gruelling Hawaiian Ironman.