If there were any doubts over Courtney Atkinson’s ability to return to Olympic competition after a two year sabbatical from ITU triathlon, the 34-year-old well and truly put them to bed on the weekend to claim a sensational 10th-placed finish in his official return on the Gold Coast.
Having confirmed his bid for a record third Olympic Games earlier this year, to be one of Australia’s three-man triathlon team for Rio 2016, Courtney contested a number of sprint events before taking part in his first Olympic-distance race at the Gold Coast Triathlon against the world’s best in his very own backyard.
And what a spectacular return it was, Courtney completing the race in a sprint to the finish line with compatriot Ryan Bailie, narrowly missing out on ninth to finish in a satisfying 10th – the second quickest Australian. Better yet, he was just two minutes short of race winner and world champion Jonathon Brownlee, evidence that despite two years out of competition Courtney is well and truly still in the mix. He matched it with the world’s best for much of the foot race, an ideal start to his third Olympic campaign. And he couldn’t be happier after spending the best part of the past two years transforming his body from a powerful racing machine to an endurance specialist and back again.
I exceeded even my expectations for sure
“With Olympic trials not until August, it’s about tracking my progress and improving at every opportunity. And I couldn’t be happier.
“I improved across all legs and ran the first half of the run with the group of top runners currently in the world just as I would have six years ago - which no Australians currently are. And that even surprised me a little.
“I held on well in the run to finish 10th in my first outing at a world championship series event since before the London Olympics. And it gives me the belief and confidence moving forward.”
He’ll now have five weeks to work on what he learned from the Gold Coast race before the next event in Yokohama. In the meantime, Courtney will be out to defend his Australian XTerra off-road triathlon title in Jervis Bay, NSW this weekend.