Wollongong-based Natalie Van Coevorden had to fight to the last season, but hopes her third placing at the World Triathlon Series opener is a launching pad for the year ahead.
In a sprint finish, Van Coevorden was third, ahead of American Kirsten Kasper, forced to overcome a protest of the result to confirm her podium placing.
While her Australian teammates, including fellow Illawarra-based talent Ashleigh Gentle, prepare for the Commonwealth Games, the Abu Dhabi race featured eight of the world’s top 10 triathletes. Emerging sixth out of the water, Van Coevorden stayed in the leading bunch on the bike and then part of a group of four break clear early on the run.
Rachel Klamer, from the Netherlands, recorded her first ever WTS event win, with Great Britain’s Jessica Learmonth second.
Van Coevorden was delighted with her third placing.
“I am really happy, it hasn’t really sunk in yet,” she said after the race.
“I can’t get this smile off my face. (It) was a bit of a struggle out there, I just tried to keep myself out of trouble and do things I knew I could do really well and it paid off in the end.”
The Abu Dhabi leg launched the nine-event WTS series this year, finishing with the grand final at the Gold Coast in September.
The Commonwealth Games team features Wollongong Wizards stars Gentle and Charlotte McShane, as well as former training partner Jake Birtwhistle.
Luke Willian, Matt Hauser and Gillian Backhouse are also included in the Australian squad to compete on the Gold Coast next month.