It’s been a helluva long road back to Olympic-distance ITU triathlon racing for Courtney Atkinson. But the finish line is in sight as he prepares to contest this weekend’s Gold Coast Triathlon in what shapes as the start of the final stages of preparation for Olympic qualification ahead of Rio 2016.
The two-time Olympic triathlete signalled his intentions to return to short-form sprint racing earlier this year after a two-year sabbatical where he focused largely on full distance ironman. And this weekend marks his official return to Olympic distance racing, where he’ll not only be up against Australia’s best and his Australian Olympic team rivals but the best the world has to offer and those he’s certain to face in Rio.
“This is the first world championship series race I will have started since prior to the London Olympic Games, so it’s a little nerve racking and exciting at the same time,” Courtney says.
“I have been out of this level of competition for a long time but I have good form on this course. The last time the grand final of the world championship series was held here, I finished fifth.”
And it just happens to be his home track, in his very own backyard.
“I might be biased but of all the locations on the world championship series, the Gold Coast has got to be the most attractive location,” Courtney says with a chuckle.
“With the warm weather we are still having at this time of year it is very similar to a beach race like Rio will be.”
But jokes aside, this weekend Courtney means serious business as he look to continue his re-adjustment to sprint racing after having re-shaped his body and techniques to accommodate endurance racing.
“I need to improve in some aspect every time I step back to race in these ITU races on the pathway to the Olympic Games,” he continues.
“So far, I have achieved this and been happy with my progression. But it’s difficult to look at pure results as each race I start has a high level of competition and this weekend will be different again with my first outing against the top of the tree - all the best in the world and Olympic contenders will be starting.
“I’ve had a few weeks of constant training under my belt and know my form has improved since the first block of racing. So I’m looking forward to seeing how I go in this quality of field knowing that I will have another few blocks of improvement before the Rio test event - with the initial Australian selection taking place in the first week of August.”
And his biggest goals?
“To see improvement in my running pace again and rectify my normal strength of swimming near the front, which has interestingly been what has let me down coming back into the ITU style of racing,” Courtney says.
“As a result, I need to be amongst or the best Australian looking towards securing a place on my third Olympic team. This is the first test for me over the Olympic distance in an Olympic-quality field. And I can’t wait to put myself to the test.”