They’re the Wollongong triathletes who have conquered some of the biggest races in the world.
But the one race they’re yet to take out happens to be right on their doorstep. Wollongong’s Australia Day Aquathon.
After missing last year’s event, husband and wife duo Ben and Jacqui Allen have returned in 2019 in a bid to finally claim the annual classic.
“After missing last year’s race, it ignited a flame to get back and compete in the local Aquathon again,” Ben Allen said.
“I’ve lost count of how many I’ve done. As a kid growing up in Wollongong, watching athletes coming through the ranks inspired me to take up the challenge and I’ve been doing it for more than 10 years now.
“It’s a race that means a lot because I’ve got family and friends out on the course and competing. To get a win here would be a dream, because I’ve never actually won it, only made a few podiums.”
The event will start at 8am on Saturday morning when hundreds of eager athletes charge into Wollongong Harbour to complete a 900 metre swim before throwing on the sandshoes and embarking on a seven kilometre run.
The couple will enter the race in contrasting form, with Ben riding high after claiming two TreX Cross Triathlon events to close out 2018 and Jacqui still on the comeback trail from a series of injuries that crippled the back half of her 2018.
With such a limited amount of racing in the bank, Jacqui is simply hoping the event will act as a springboard for a successful 2019.
“The injuries and a few little setbacks really put things into perspective and made me work on a lot of weaknesses,” Jacqui said.
“2019 is looking really good and it’s going to be brilliant to kick it off with a good, hard Aquathon.
“This will be the first race in a while swimming against fast swimmers, so it will be important to see how I’m feeling and how the swim training’s going. Then a really hard 7km run will be a good hit-out to see where I’m at and get some numbers to progress the season from there.”
For Ben, this year’s race provides the perfect opportunity to finally breakthrough for that maiden victory after more than a decade of trying.
Many of the elite competitors from previous years have opted to bypass the 2019 edition, with the Wollongong Wizards currently in the midst of a training camp.
Allen isn’t expecting a walk in the park, however, with the 35-year-old fully aware that a host of young athletes, led by 2018 third-place finisher Nathan Breen, will be vying to make a name for themselves.
He will also face competition from the older athletes, with three-time World Ironman champion Craig Alexander racing.
“This year might be the year for me,” Ben said. “A lot of the Olympians and athletes have decided not to turn up this year, so it might be a win for the local lads.
“It’s going to be a real test to see where I’m at against some high-performance athletes and I’m up for the challenge and ready to go.”