Atkinson on verge of Olympic dream

Rio qualification race could see triathlete Courtney Atkinson set new Olympic record
Courtney Atkinson © Brett Hemmings
By Josh Rakic

Two-times Olympic triathlete Courtney Atkinson can almost smell the Brazil nuts and sweat of his competitors splashing his face as he prepares to become the first Australian triathlete in history to qualify for three consecutive Olympic Games next month.

The world’s best triathletes will descend on Copacabana, Rio in little over a fortnight and the top eight finishers are guaranteed a start in Rio 2016. More importantly for Courtney however, is that he needs to finish ahead of the other five Australian hopefuls to secure a berth and a slice of history.

But like you, we’re sick of agenda-driven, beat-around-the-bush fluff pieces. So below is a definitive account of the August 2 event and what Courtney needs to do to qualify for the Australian Olympic team.

RB: Courtney! When do you leave for Rio and will you have time to practice on the circuit?

CA: I'll fly over to Rio from the Gold Coast a week out from the race. That gives me time to beat the jet lag and also a chance to learn the characteristics of the course for the race.

RB: How's the prep coming along? How far have you come from the start of the year?

CA: I've taken a similar approach to the lead up to the Gold Coast race which was positive and was the stepping stone to cement my return to the top ranks for the Aussie triathlon team. I'm relaxed, fit, fresh and looking forward to racing. I have definitely made improvements in some areas that I struggled with on return.

RB: What do you know about the circuit?

CA: I've been to Rio twice in the past decade and raced along this stretch of beach before and it reminds me a lot of home on the Gold Coast. I've now seen video of the Olympic course and it's a surf/swim beach start. The bike has some hills and is pretty rough and tight which is similar to courses that would suit me in the past. The run is very flat and very fast.

RB: Who is your main competition to make the Australian side?

CA: The Aussies are very close across all six of us racing and with the variables in ITU triathlon there are always surprises. I just concentrate on myself and know that I have been in this situation many times before around Olympic processes. Hopefully the bit of experience helps. I actually love the fact I'm racing for something bigger than what is happening that day - to get to the Olympics.

RB: What do you have to do/where to you have to finish to qualify?

CA: I need to be the top Australian and finish in top eight of what will be the equivalent of the Olympic Games field. But regardless, it is important to show good form on the Olympic course and learn from getting to race over it in completion.

RB: Is this the only opportunity to qualify?

CA: No. It’s just the start point. There's still a long road ahead over the next 10 months or so to finalise a team.

RB: With that in mind, what is your goal for the event and what will you be satisfied with?

CA: I’d be lying if I didn't say selection was my goal. But that's just a product of producing a good race so the focus is always on executing the best day I can. I can't wait to get the show started!

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