Ashleigh Gentle’s breakthrough win in Edmonton
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Reigning Junior World Champion Ashleigh Gentle of Australia stepped up to the elite ranks in a big way today, snatching victory at the Edmonton ITU Triathlon World Cup. Team ITU member Mateja Simic made history as the first Slovenian ever to make the podium at a World Cup after edging out Austrian Lisa Perterer.
“It started off pretty rough in the swim but had to work pretty hard in the bike. It is quite a tough course actually,” said Gentle. “I knew hopefully if I was in striking range off the bike I could really just nail the run and hopefully get past a few girls and not look back.”
A dreary and grey day welcomed the 49 elite women as they ran into Hawrelak Park lake for a 2-lap wetsuit swim. Brazil’s Pamela Nascimento Oliveira led the women out of the water with at least ten seconds on the rest of the field. But out onto the 40km bike course, a lead pack of more than a dozen women formed. Among them were Helle Frederiksen, Hollie Avil, Abbie Thorrington and Flora Duffy.
In pursuit was the chase group of approximately 15 women which included Gentle, Youth Olympic Games bronze medallist Kelly Whitley and Japanese veteran Kiyomi Niwata. The chase pack wasn’t digging into the lead throughout the tough 40km bike course until the last of the six laps when they cut the lead to less than 30 seconds.
Once the women hit the 10km run course, it didn’t take long for speedster Gentle to surge to the lead. Despite coming out of the second transition half a minute behind, the Aussie youngster was already in front midway through the first lap. It was clear no one would keep pace with Gentle and the race was on for second and third.
When Gentle broke the tape at 2 hours and 14 seconds as the victor, the smile soon gave way to emotion as she dropped to her knees in tears.
“When things really start to come together and all your hard work starts paying off, I guess it’s a bit emotional,” admitted Gentle.
Brazilian veteran Carla Moreno, Perterer and Mateja locked into a battle for the last two podium spots. Eventually Moreno was dropped and Perterer and Simic hit the final finish chute together, sprinting toward the line. Simic edged out the Austrian but both were ecstatic in simultaneous career breakthrough performances.
Simic’s silver was sweet success not just for herself, but also for Team ITU, the development programme that was competing at the Edmonton World Cup.
“This is the best result of my career, I am just looking for words,” said Simic at the finish area. “This is my only chance to go to the Olympic Games so I am really grateful to ITU for accepting me into the ITU Development team. I am really proud I am a member.”
Team ITU is an initiative of the ITU’s Sport Development Programme and offers support for athletes from developing and emerging national federations to race at the World Cup level. These athletes are potential elite contenders, but may not otherwise be able to attend these World Cup events.
Moreno finished fourth, followed by Anahi Leon in fifth place, Kiyomi Niwata in sixth, Charlotte Morel in seventh, Frederiksen in eighth, Keiko Tanaka in ninth and Alice Betto rounding out the top ten
Earlier in the day, the big news surrounded around Edmonton native Paula Findlay, who currently leads the Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series. The local star was forced to pull out of the race with a hip injury.
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