Triathlete Ashleigh Gentle turns Olympic nightmare into motivation for Tokyo Games | The Canberra Times

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An Olympics shortfall has kept Ashleigh Gentle motivated in her pursuit to medal at the Tokyo Games, with the five-year wait rousing her desire to return a better triathlete. Gentle’s Olympic dream turned into a nightmare when she under-performed at the Rio Games, finishing 26th in the individual triathlon despite being ranked world No.3. She feels like a completely different athlete heading into Tokyo, where she’ll be one of Australia’s genuine medal contenders. The Queensland native has had two coaching changes, is a more mature and developed athlete, and has valuable experience under her belt – including a second-placed finish in the 2017 Triathlon World Series. Gentle has a medal in mind for Tokyo and her bid is backed by Triathlon Australia, having been given an early nomination to the Olympic team in December. “That [Rio] result was very under-performed and it actually took me a while to get over that whole experience,” Gentle said. “It was a bit of a nightmare leading in, the whole experience. But I learned a lot to be honest, it sounds super cliche but I did. “I’m going to Tokyo with a medal in mind, that’s what’s kept me motivated for five years since Rio. “I think I’ve got an opportunity in the individual and also in the mixed relay, as a team we’re the former world champions and won gold at the Commonwealth Games. We’ve got a lot of potential.” MORE CANBERRA SPORT Gentle and Jake Birtwhistle had their nominations ratified by Triathlon Australia’s Elite Selection Committee, which gives them some certainty to train and plan amid these uncertain times. However, the Australian Olympic Committee cannot sign them off until the closure of the triathlon qualification period in June. Gentle is training at the Australian Institute of Sport for four weeks to intensify her preparations, as well as giving her a break from the humid Gold Coast summer. “The focus was getting in more volume and quality training, and being able to recover quicker,” Gentle said. “Because when you’re out doing the same session in 80 per cent humidity and 30 degrees in Brisbane, it really knocks you around. If I do the same session here, I can recover so much quicker. “I’ve increased my hours and intensity of the sessions because of those reasons. I can also use these AIS facilities because they’ve kept them open for athletes – once I heard that I jumped on the opportunity to come down. I’ve always enjoyed training in Canberra and what it offers.”] The 29-year-old triathlete will likely continue her preparations in Australia due to quarantine requirements and COVID-19 uncertainty. Triathlon Australia is looking to hold a domestic calendar in line with what is scheduled internationally, with many athletes opting to remain on homesoil. Her next target is the Mooloolaba Triathlon on March 14, before undertaking the Mixed Relay Invitational four days later. “That’s just trying to replicate Tokyo,” she said. “We have an individual race in Tokyo and then four days later a mixed relay, so it’s a good opportunity to practice doing that race, training in between and seeing how our taper goes.” While in Canberra, Gentle will contest the Jackie Fairweather Memorial Triathlon on Sunday – which will serve as preparation for next month’s event in Mooloolaba. “I actually had not come prepared, I don’t even have my triathlon shoes here or anything,” Gentle said. “I’m looking forward to it, it’s a duathlon now because of the water quality. I wanted to take the opportunity to rce for it, in memory of Jackie but also selfishly for myself – for the opportunity to have a hit out before Mooloolaba.”



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