Wizardry in Wollongong the fuel for global talent


The finishing order to yesterday's women's aquathon might indicate an international domination, but beneath the surface there is a very Australian flavour.

While it appears an American, a Chilean and Canadian filled the podium, the foreign contingent are very much a part of Wollongong.

Gwen Jorgensen, Barbara Riveros and Ellen Pennock all train with the Wollongong Wizards under coach Jamie Turner.

Third-placed Canadian Pennock is the newest edition to the squad, landing in Australia just in time to compete in the region's feature event.

And if her new teammates are anything to go by, she could be here for quite a while.

"I have been in Wollongong since 2006, so it is always special for me to race here," Riveros said.

"I am pretty happy, we are all training partners, so it is good to race each other.

"We have been training hard in Falls Creek for the last week and we really enjoy racing each other and training together as well, so it is a really important and great day to celebrate."

Like her teammate Jorgensen, who refers to Wollongong as "a second home" during the warmer months, Riveros becomes a de facto Australian this time of year.

"I have my Australian family, I am pretty much living in Towradgi, so now it is great to race here and I have a lot of friends around here," Riveros said.

But it's not just international competitors flocking to the Illawarra to train.

Aquathon men's champion Jacob Birtwhistle is the latest in a long line of Australian athletes to move to the region and take up a spot with the Wizards.

Like former world under-23 Aaron Royle before him, the Tasmanian has opted to call Wollongong home to train with coach Turner.

"It is my first time here in Wollongong. I actually just moved here [on Saturday], so this is my new home," Birtwhistle said.

"It is just good to get up here where it is a much better environment for training and everything."

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