Birtwhistle, Jorgensen triumph in Wollongong aquathon

AQUATHON

First-timer Jacob Birtwhistle and 2013 women's champion Gwen Jorgensen took honours in Wollongong's Australia Day Aquathon yesterday.

Birtwhistle was first across the line in front of a healthy crowd at Belmore Basin, using a strong run leg to oust his rivals in 36 minutes 28 seconds.

London Olympian Brendan Sexton (36:43) fought hard to finish second and Ryan Bailie (36:55) was third.

Australia's leading triathlete and event ambassador Aaron Royle was a notable late withdrawal from the field, opting not to risk competing because of a minor calf complaint.

In his absence, Birtwhistle, Sexton, Bailie and Michael Murphy took control of the race after the swim before Birtwhistle used his experience as an 11-time Australian junior track champion to kick away.

"Just going through that slight uphill, me and Brendan Sexton kind of made a bit of a surge there and [got] away from the other two, Murphy and Ryan Baillie," Birtwhistle said.

"And then coming back along the grass just where you get across the bike path is where I got the lead and could just surge away from Brendan.

"The run is my strongest leg, so it was good to get away there."

It was Birtwhistle's first appearance in the event, but the 19-year-old is likely to become a regular competitor after moving to the region.

"It is good to get here and get a bit of a feel for the place and obviously it's a good, fun day here, it is a pretty big event for the community as well," Birtwhistle said.

"It always gets a pretty good class field so it is a really good season opener for me and hopefully now I can move on to some other good performances throughout the year."

In the women's race, Jorgensen stamped her name in the history books.

The American Olympian looked ready for round two when she cruised over the line, coasting to another title in exactly 40 minutes.

Her rivals couldn't bridge the gap after the swim, and Chile's Barbara Riveros (40:24) and Canadian Ellen Pennock (40:47) joined her on the podium.

"I am really happy," Jorgensen said. "Our head Wizard Jamie Turner really prepared us well and it is an early season race, so it is good to see where our fitness is.

"I'm just trying to focus on the processes. I think all of us were just out there focusing on technique and trying to execute when we are tired.

"We had a good month in Falls Creek, so it is good to come back and win in Wollongong. It is a wonderful way to start Australia Day."

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