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The 2010 ITU Triathlon World Cup series kicks off this weekend on Australia’s Sunshine Coast. More than 80 elite athletes from around the globe will descend on Mooloolaba, officially signaling the start of the 2010 season. Defending champions Canadian Kirsten Sweetland and Australia’s Courtney Atkinson are anything but certainties.
With a shadow over defending champion Courtney Atkinson as he struggles to overcome a stomach bug, and Sweetland coming in with a solid base foundation but little speed preparation, the race is thrown wide open.
For Atkinson it would be a double blow of his title defense, with Mooloolaba doubling as the 2010 Australian Championship title.
“I am very frustrated as the defense of my title last year was a high priority for me in 2010 and my pre-season training has shown some very promising signs. “I will be doing everything to try and get myself on the start line as I see it very important to get a longer race done in preparation for the coming World Championship series,” said Atkinson
“Mooloolaba is my favourite race in the world and to win last year on this course was such a surprise and such an honour. It’s nice going into this race as the defending champion, knowing I can perform on this course but I don’t feel any pressure at this time in the season,” said Kristen Sweetland
Sweetland arrived in Australia yesterday and headed straight for her base in Noosa, joining a small army of internationals including Javier Gomez who have been there for the past 8 weeks.
The defending champion calls Australia her second home and is not feeling the pressure the title carries.
“Mooloolaba is my favourite race in the world and to win last year on this course was such a surprise and such an honour. It’s nice going into this race as the defending champion, knowing I can perform on this course but I don’t feel any pressure at this time in the season,” said Sweetland.
Sweetland has opted for a different preparation to her 2010 season.
“I had a big break and moved back home to Victoria in Canada. I have built a lot of base this year which is something new to me. I am very strong but not yet into the speed portion on my training.
“Being the first race of the year I really don’t have any plan or expectations. It will be good to just give it my best and see where I’m at,” she added.
Australian Brad Kahlefeldt and Spain’s Javier Gomez are expected to resume their epic Mooloolaba battle. Kahlefeldt got the better of the Spaniard in a sprint finish in 2007 but Gomez turned the tables the following year.
“Obviously Gomez is a great athlete and we’ve had some good battles, I expect this will be another one.
The elite women’s field contains a number of contenders to vie for the title. Beijing Olympian Laura Bennett (US) has spent her pre season preparing here. Sweetland’s team mate Kathy Tremblay; current World Duathlon Champion Vendula Frintova (Cze); veteran Liz Blatchford heads up a strong British team; Germany’s Ricarda Lisk and New Zealand’s Debbie Tanner are all capable of taking out the season opener.
Elite Women – Ones to Watch:
Kristen Sweetland (CAN) – 2006 ITU Junior World Champion, 2-time World Cup winner
Laura Bennett (USA) – 4th at 2008 Beijing Olympics, 4-time World Cup winner
Liz Blatchford (GBR) – 2-time World Cup and Continental Cup winner
Debbie Tanner (NZL) – 2nd at 2010 Oceania Championships, 2009 Oceania Cup Champion, 10th at 2008 Beijing Olympics
Elite Men – Ones to Watch:
Courtney Atkinson (AUS) – 2009 Perth Oceania Cup winner, 5-time Ishigaki World Cup winner, 2nd at 2009 Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Madrid
Javier Gomez (ESP) – 11-time World Cup winner, 2008 ITU World Champion, 2 World Cup series titles (2006, 2007)
Brad Kahlefeldt (AUS) – 2002 U23 world champ, 4-time Oceania Championships winner, 5-time World Cup winner, 2006 Commonwealth Games champion
Event & Athlete details
Prize Money : USD $50,000
2009 Mooloolaba ITU World Cup winners:
Courtney Atkinson (AUS) 1:52:05 Kristen Sweetland (CAN) 2:02:00
The race will be standard Olympic distance: 1.5-kilometer swim, 40-kilometer bike, 10-kilometer run. Live text updates will be available on triathlon.org
Elite men start – 12:00 (UTC/GMT +10), March 27
Elite women start – 15:00 (UTC/GMT +10), March 28