NEWCASTLE’S Aaron Royle is preparing for his first half-ironman event as he waits to learn if he has been chosen in the Australian triathlon team for next year’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Unlike for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and Rio Olympics, Royle has been unable to secure automatic qualification.
After a year interrupted by injury and illness, he is now at the mercy of selectors’ discretion but hopes they will offer him one of the two remaining spots on the Australian team.
In the meantime, he plans to finish 2017 on a positive note by performing well in three lucrative season-ending events, the Nepean, Noosa and Island House (Bahamas) Triathlon, before the Western Sydney Ironman on November 26.
He has won the Nepean three times, Noosa twice and last year finished third at the Island House, collecting the biggest pay cheque ($40,000) of his career.
He said the half-ironman at Penrith would be a step towards a long-time ambition, competing in the gruelling Hawaiian Ironman.
“It’s a 1.9km swim, a 90-km bike ride and you finish with a half-marathon run, so 21.1kms,” he said.
“Which scares the hell out of me, just mentioning how far it actually is. It’s going to be quite painful, but I’ve been wanting to do one for a little while now and it’s just none have ever seemed to fit in with my season.”
A standard Olympic-length triathlon is a 1.5km swim, 40km bike ride and 10 kilometre run. The Hawaiian Ironman comprises a 3.86km, 180.25km ride and full marathon (42.2km) run.
“The Hawaiian Ironman has always been appealing to me,” he said. “There’s options for the longer stuff for me, but I still think I have a few years left in me doing the Olympic version of the sport.
“I still think that Tokyo  is a realistic goal. It’s tough after a year when you don’t go as well as you think you’re capable of.
“You question yourself a little bit, but I still think I have the ability to go to Tokyo and perform better than I did in Rio [when he finished ninth].”
In the lead-up to Glasgow and Rio, Royle automatically qualified almost a year ahead of both events, which allowed him to focus solely on his preparation.
For Gold Coast, he hopes selectors take into account his performances over the past five years, rather than a 2017 campaign hindered by a torn plantar fasciitis and then a bout of gastroenteritis before the last race on the world-series circuit, in Rotterdam.
“It’s in the selectors’ hands, and there are no more races for them to look at for selection,” he said.
“So it’s basically out of my control now. Whatever happens, happens. I can’t do anything about it and I just have to wait and see what they decide.”
The 27-year-old from Maryland has taken this year’s setbacks in his stride.
“If you’re ever going to have a down year, I guess the year after the Olympics is the best time to do it,” he said.