Teenager Callum McClusky has marked his arrival on the Wollongong triathlon scene with victory in the Australia Day Aquathon.
The 19-year-old prevailed after a tight tussle with Rio Olympian Ryan Bailie throughout the seven kilometre run leg.
The pair traded the lead multiple times, with McClusky ultimately taking the lead in the final kilometre.
“It feels pretty good to get the win,” McClusky said. “It was pretty hard to catch Ryan, I was just trying my best there and luckily I just had the kick on him.
“There was a patch in the middle there where they were just staying at equal ground, but up the hill I just pushed a bit harder and Ryan, luckily for me, popped and I was able to take the win.”
The victory marks the end of the Jake Birtwhistle stranglehold on the race, with the four-time champion a late withdrawal.
A Canberra native, McClusky is in the process of moving to Wollongong to join Jamie Turner’s elite triathlon squad.
“This is my first day in Wollongong actually, I just came down for the event and I’m going to stay down here and train with the Wizards.
“We had a three-week stint at the AIS in Canberra, that’s where I live, so I just stayed at home and did my trial with Jamie and the guys, and I really liked it, so I’m coming down to Wollongong to train with them.”
“It’s great to have bragging rights for the first year that you’re in the club.”
With Bailie finishing in second, the men’s podium was rounded out by Nathan Breen. The junior world champion led the race throughout the swim, however he was overtaken during the run and was unable to stick with the leading pair.
The women’s race was taken out by defending champion Ashleigh Gentle.
After exiting the water behind the leading pack, the 26-year-old quickly made up ground, eventually chasing down race leader Emma Jeffcoat at the halfway point of the run.
From there, Gentle was able to pull away from Jeffcoat and claim the victory. Jeffcoat finished second, with Natalie Van Coevorden in third.
“It feels pretty good,” Gentle said. “They were definitely tough conditions out here this morning.
“I had to work hard during the run along that bike path on the other side of Puckeys and just caught her as I entered. It took me all that long straight but I could see her in my sights and I was just honing in on her and hoping that I could pick her up kilometre by kilometre.”
The race forms an important part of Gentle’s preparation for April’s Commonwealth Games and she’s pleased with how her training’s tracking.
“I’m feeling really good and I’m really confident in the preparation I’ve done and that I’ll be doing. I hope that I can prepare well and everything goes smoothly. But, even if it doesn’t I’ll be doing my best that’s for sure.”