South African Trudi Sanders was a professional triathlete 20 years ago when she took out the inaugural Australia Day Aquathon female long course.
A lot has changed for her since. Trudi Sanders became a Barnes, she relocated to Wollongong, had two daughters and is no longer competes professionally.
But that won’t stop her racing her heart out during the 20th anniversary of the swimming and running event on January 26 at Wollongong Harbour.
The icing on the cake is her daughters will be competing in the solo mini race and the team mini race.
“I can’t believe it has been 20 years,” Mrs Barnes said. “I am most excited to see my girls have a go.
“Now I am 45 so it will be hard to match my competitors who are in their 20s but I hope to make top three in the over 40s race and top 10 in the overall female competition.
“Doing the Aquathon together will be a nice way to start Australia Day,” she said. “We will then have an ice cream then hit the rides before watching the fireworks.”
Mrs Barnes said her daughters Xanthe, 11, and Hana, 9, were active and sporty like their parents. They love to run, do Nippers and play Aussie Rules. The girls are competitive.
“My youngest is nervous about racing solo,” Mrs Barnes said. “I have been mentoring and preparing her by telling her how to put on her shoes quickly for example. My husband will swim alongside her to help if needed.
“They both want to do well especially against their school mates.”
Mrs Barnes used to compete in the event to to kick off her triathlon training for the year. She was selected in the South African Olympic reserve team in 2006 and competed in the Commonwealth Games for South Africa in 2002.
“I got involved in the sport after competing in a swim and run biathlon in South Africa,” she said.
“I then tried triathlon and loved it. More than 20 years later I still race.”
Mrs Barnes has competed in most of the Aquathons over the years.
She is encouraging others to join in the fun.
There is a 900m swim and seven-kilometre run in the long race, 400m and three-kilometre short race, 200m swim and two-kilometre run in the mini competition and 120 or 200m swim and two-kilometre race for kids. Competitors can also complete the race in a team. There is a four-kilometre walk, run and roll event too.
Aquathon event director Rob Battocchio said more than 15,000 competitors had taken part since the event’s inception with competitors on an elite international level to Australian triathletes, world champions, Olympic gold medalists and people of all ages who wanted to have fun.
“Whilst it is privilege to host elite athletes; Aquathon is more about participation, community, family and fun,” Mr Battocchio said.
“It offers a unique Australia Day experience which generates a sense of community.
“With a range of event options across swim-runs to the fun run and walk, it provides a chance for all ages and all abilities to join in.”
Participation medals will be offered to all competitors who cross the finish line.
“Maybe since you’ve last done an Aquathon, you’ve got kids or even grandkids now,” Mr Battocchio said.
“Bring them along and make it a family event for everyone.
“I’d love to see record numbers for our big 20th year, so stay local this Australia Day and kick off your morning with a beautiful swim and run around the harbour.”
Entries can be taken online up until 12pm on Friday or on the day at Belmore Basin.
Register at aquathon.com.au.