Australian triathletes to work as a team

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Australia will use team tactics to give Jake Birtwhistle the best-possible chance of a medal in the Olympic men’s triathlon.

While not wanting to go into specific tactics, Aaron Royle said he is ready to work for Birtwhistle in their 1.5km swim, 40km cycle and 10km run event next Monday.

Triathlon was created as an individual sport, but team tactics are a definite option in events such as the Olympics, where packs are allowed on the bike.

Australia successfully used Simon Thompson as a domestique at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, where Brad Kahlefeldt won the gold medal and Pete Robertson took bronze against a world-class field.

“We’re definitely looking down that avenue, approaching it the best way we can to get the best outcome for Australia,” Royle told AAP when asked if they were thinking of a team strategy.

“At the moment in the individual, that’s been Jake.

“It’s just making sure that we’re smart in how we approach it.”

It will be a much different role for Royle than at his Olympics debut in Rio, where he was the top Australian in the men’s race with ninth place.

Royle and teammate Matt Hauser are strong swimmers and their roles will most likely be to help Birtwhistle, whose strength is his running.

“The old saying – you can’t win it in the swim, but you can lose it,” Birtwhistle said.

“So we don’t want to do anything that might hurt Jack’s chances of trying to get towards the front of the race when it matters.

“We’ll sit down and make sure we’re on the same page. Jake’s had the runs on the board.”

After the individual triathlons next Monday and Tuesday, two of the Australian men will combine with two of the women on July 31 in the teams relay, a new Olympic event.

Australia’s medal prospects look stronger in the teams relay, but Royle is also bullish about next Monday.

“We definitely believe we can have an individual men’s podium,” the 31-year-old said.

“You bring it back even to the selection policy … you either show you can win a medal or you’re there to help win a medal, basically.

“It’s not a surprise in the way we may be asked to race – I knew that from day dot.”

While Royle has been part of medal-winning relay teams as major events, he has struggled with injuries and has not been on the podium of a major individual international triathlon since 2017.

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