Australia crowned first-time Mixed Relay World Champions
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In Mixed Relay’s first event since the announcement to be included as an official Olympic sport for the Tokyo 2020 Programme, Australia put forth a fierce come from behind finish to claim its first-ever World Championship title with a team of Charlotte McShane, Matthew Hauser, Ashleigh Gentle and Jacob Birtwhistle.
In a fight to finish line, USA scored the silver medal, while the Netherlands crossed over for the bronze for a time-time podium in the woman-man-woman-man relay, which saw each athlete complete a 300-metre swim, 7-kilometre bike and 1.6-kilometre run.
“I will give it to Hamburg, I love it here. To come out here with the guys, we were all able to put together a good race and end up as World Champions, it is pretty awesome!” said Birtwhistle of the winning Aussie team.
McShane added, “I feel like there is a lot more pressure on you when you race because you aren’t just racing for yourself, you are racing for your whole team, but it is definitely so much fun to be able to come out here and win together.”
It was anyone’s title after the first leg of the relay, which saw Spain, USA, Belgium and Yuka Sato of Japan neck and neck as they tagged off to their teammates.
As the first group of men took off, it was the bike leg that ended up being the crucial part of the story as Ben Kanute (USA) and Dorian Coninx (FRA) took off together as a breakaway pair. Upon entering the run they had a healthy lead of 11 seconds that they passed on to the second group of women.
While France looked to be a top contender for a medal in the third heat of the race, a penalty inside the second transition took them out of the running.
A swift solo ride and run from Katie Zaferes put USA ahead of the bunch and looking confident going into the final tag off. However it was the competitive spirit of Joanna Brown (CAN), Rachel Klamer (NED), Gentle and Lucy Hall (GBR) that made sure that the final leg of the race would not be an easy one.
While at first a breakaway from Matt Mcelroy (USA) and Alexis Lepage (CAN) made it seem that the gold and silver were guaranteed for the two nations, Lepage suffered a slip on the bike that caused Canada to be caught by the fiery chase.
Hard pushes from the Aussies, Brits, and Dutch meant that the final transition would bring five nations together to compete for only three medals.
Mimicking the individual men’s race from the day before, Birtwhistle gunned it in the final metres to bypass the field and snag the finish line to be welcomed by his teammates as the Aussie nation collected the World Title for the very first time.
It was the USA who finished next to take the silver.
“This is my favourite race every year, I love it, I get pumped up for it. It seems that each year I need a little bit of redemption from the year before, but you aren’t just racing for yourself, you are racing for your teammates and I think everyone on our team stepped up today,” said Kanute.
The Dutch finished off the podium as the young Jorik Van Egdom closed it down and gave the Holland nation a first-time relay medal.
Marco Van der Stel said of getting the bronze, “Hamburg is always a fantastic race, it is full of crowds. I always love to be in Hamburg and then we come in third today, it is really a dream, we never thought, we hoped to be top eight, but to finish on the podium, it was just amazing teamwork.”