Olympic triathlete Courtney Atkinson’s bid for a record third Olympic Games has taken its biggest step towards fruition yet after the Australian Olympic Committee confirmed the veteran’s selection to compete in the official international Olympic trial event in Rio this August.
Having taken a two-year sabbatical from the Olympic distance triathlon post the London 2012 games, 35-year-old Courtney confirmed his return to the sport in February. Since then, he’s featured prominently in his return events and his selection to contest the trial event in Brazil – on the 2016 Olympics circuit – means he’s effectively one race away from becoming the first triathlete in Australian history to contest three Olympic Games. Suffice to say, it’s a massive confidence boost for the Gold Coast product.
Personally, it shows me I’m on the right track, It’s very early days still and I still know I have to be patient but in February when I made the decision to 100% commit to a third Olympic campaign I knew it was a step by step process.
“Firstly, I had to get back into the top level of ITU racing and then contest the selection race over the Olympic course. And now the real job starts - securing selection and looking to hit the type of form that can possibly put me in the mix for medals.”
Despite a promising run over the past four months, Courtney admits he did harbour a little anxiety about the mammoth effort and having his dream in the hands of a selection panel. “To be honest, I’ve been committed to the Olympic campaign 100 per cent for four months and for the first two of those months it was difficult,” Courtney continues.
“I was improving but I also wasn’t in the shape that I thought I could be. When I had my first start at the World Championship level on the Gold Coast and everything starting coming together just like I raced six years ago, then the doubts began to subside. “Once I showed myself - and that’s what really counts - that I still had the form and skills to race at the front end of the WCS event that did wonders for my confidence. Maybe even then it got me a bit over excited and I started pushing a bit too hard. I know now the key for me in this preparation is patience, consistency and bloody enjoyment!”
He says it feels like he’s brand new to the sport all over again and feels the same excitement he did upon his debut Olympic selection in 2007.“It really is all new again after three years away from Olympic racing,” Courtney says.
“I’m making sure I keep that freshness by keeping my concentration on events I need to perform at so I can arrive in Rio like it is my first time all over again – only with a wealth of experience and knowledge gained from past appearances.”
The Rio trail event will be over the same course and distance as the 2016 Games – 51.5km – and notably, will be contested at the same time of year. That means results in August will be under Olympic conditions and be even more indicative of which athletes are more suited to represent Australia.
And to guarantee qualification, the key for Courtney is to be the first Australian across the line and finish inside the top-eight. However, it’s important to keep in mind that this is only the first selection event for the Australian team, with as many as three triathletes to be chosen over a number of event into early next year.