NEWCASTLE’S Aaron Royle will be looking to finish the elite-level triathlon series on a high note – while reinforcing his claims for a berth at the Tokyo Olympics – with a strong showing at the World Series grand final on the Gold Coast on Sunday.
“When I started my first-ever junior world championships on the Gold Coast in 2009, I was one of the the youngest on the team, and now I’m the oldest on the team,” the 28-year-old said.
“The world championships have been allocated for other countries up until 2024, so this could be my last major race like this in Australia, and it would be nice to come full circle and put in a good performance.”
A top-10 regular on the international rankings for the past five years, Royle is No.19 this year but the second-highest placed Australian, behind world No.2 Jake Birtwhistle.
At the Rio Olympics two years ago, he was the leading Australian in the men’s race, finishing ninth.
He has focused this year on cementing his spot in Australia’s mixed-relay team, which will be a new event added for Tokyo 2020.
Australia will take three men’s and women’s individual competitors to the Olympics, and two of each will compete in the relay – a short-course triathlon that requires each team member to complete a 300-metre swim, a 7.4-kilometre bike ride and a 2-kilometre run, before handing off to a teammate to take over.
“If you’re on that [relay] team, you’re in with a good shot at an Olympic medal, that’s for sure,” Royle said.
“That’s been a big motivator for me. I’ve been to an Olympics now and a Commonwealth Games, and I’ve been doing ITU events for a while, but the relay has really given triathlon a new spark.
“The relays have been around for a while, almost as an event on the side, but now that it is a chance to win an Olympic medal, national federations have put a huge emphasis on it.
“There’s an extra medal up for grabs and it’s going to be really competitive to make the team.”
Australia finished fourth, second and first in the three world series mixed-relay events and also won the gold medal at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.