Change of scenery works wonders for Ashleigh Gentle
ASHLEIGH Gentle has consigned her Rio Olympic devastation to the past and started a new chapter in her career by racing on to her second Commonwealth Games team.
A decision to move a thousand kilometres from her home, family and boyfriend for her sport paid early dividends when she became the first triathlete to gain 2018 Commonwealth Games selection on Saturday.
Gentle finished second to New Zealand star Andrea Hewitt in the World Series sprint race on the Gold Coast with the first Australian home automatically qualifying for the Games in 2018.
"You have to celebrate the victories when you get them but really, it's all about this time next year and three-and-a-half years in Tokyo for me," said the Queenslander, who earlier this year relocated to Wollongong, south of Sydney, to train under new coach Jamie Turner.
"It feels amazing to be honest. It will take a while to sink in because I really wanted this a lot."
Gentle, who finished ninth at the last Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, said she was already seeing the benefits of a new training environment, which she hopes will deliver her a medal next year and in Tokyo in 2020.
Rio marked the first time in history Australia had failed to medal in the women's triathlon at the Olympics, with Gentle, a pre-race contender, finishing outside the top 25.
"I have learned so much in a short amount of time," said Gentle, who finished in 58min 6sec, just 4sec behind Hewitt and 5sec ahead of Japan's Juri Ide.
"I am really happy with this race but it's the first one. I will still look at the good and bad things I did and work on getting much better.
"But this shows I have now moved on (from the Olympics) because I have achieved something under real pressure. It feels great."
Earlier paratriathletes Bill Chaffey and Emily Tapp were the first triathlon nominations to the Australian team to compete at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Five-time world champion and Rio Paralympian Chaffey finished second to Dutch rival Jetze Plat in his race, while Tapp, who missed the Rio Paralympics after burning her legs, dominated the women's race.
"Today was important to me because I wanted to be the first Aussie home, I wanted that, I wanted that automatic nomination for the Commonwealth Games," said Chaffey, who finished just off the podium in Rio.
Tapp was equally delighted to be given a second chance at competing on the world stage after missing Rio.
"Last year (when I was forced out of the team for Rio) was heartbreaking. I can only thank the support personnel around me," she said.
"I'm not sure how I would have survived otherwise."