Triathlon: Atkinson on Olympic path

XTERRA win in Japan boosts Courtney Atkinson’s Olympic campaign
Courtney putting in some KM's on his bike © Brett Hemmings
By Josh Rakic

Just a month after a mixed outing at the 2016 Rio Olympics qualifying triathlon in Brazil, Courtney Atkinson has put his Olympic campaign back on track by securing victory at the Japan Xterra Championships against some of the strongest competition in the world.

While the off-road format varies widely from the Olympic form Courtney contests, the fitness, endurance and strength component alone is enough to make the contest worthwhile. Then there’s the confidence only a win can give you. “Two of my favourite things to do on a weekend are hang in Japan and race off-road,” Courtney says. “So it was Xterra in Japan and I beat home a Frenchman, Japan’s best and a heap of USA guys for the win.

The course was tough as all Xterra are. The water was a very chilly 15 degrees and the bike course through the mountain forest trails was something I’d never experienced before. Word was a bear or two were roaming around so the event organizers made bear bells compulsory to ride with on all bikes. And having to spend 90 minutes on the bike, that incessant ringing sends you bonkers eventually.

“The run was unique, too, because the first half of each lap was along the damn bank walls which were at 45 degree angles. It was a great hit-out and good preparation for the pathway to Rio.”

Of course, Courtney is aiming to become the first triathlete in Australian history to contest three Olympic Games. And having slowly but surely worked his way back into form on the ITU circuit after a two-year sabbatical, he’s aiming to finish the 2015 international season off with a bang ahead of the Australian summer.

“Next up is Chicago for the grand final race of the ITU world championship series in three weeks’ time,” Courtney says. “It’ll be good to measure myself against how I went in Brazil and an opportunity to see where I need to improve and what I need to work on once I get home. I’m excited and feeling good!” Only three competitors - possibly 2 - will make Australia's male triathlete contingent at the Games, meaning the next six months are critical to Courtney realizing his dream and making history.

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