Stung by a barren Tokyo Olympics, Matt Hauser and his triathlon teammates are out to give Australia a golden start to the Commonwealth Games.
The men’s and women’s individual triathlons on Friday at Sutton Park, north of Birmingham, will be the first medals decided at the Games.
Hauser is a strong medal chance following an impressive run of form, while Natalie Van Coevorden will lead the Australian women.
Two days later, Australia will defend the mixed team relay gold medal it won at the Gold Coast Games.
Australia, once a triathlon powerhouse, was well out of the medals hunt at the Tokyo Olympics.
That sparked plenty of criticism and Hauser says the national team is an improved group a year later.
“Tokyo was a disappointing campaign for us. That happens … countries go through dips and dives and the dip and dive for us was COVID, being away from international competition,” he said.
“We were probably a little less prepared than we would have hoped.
“But the highest of highs comes after the lowest of lows and we’re starting to get back there, challenging the other countries.
“We’re starting to get some momentum and starting to see that team culture really thrive off the back of some encouraging results.”
Hauser finished fourth at the Gold Coast Games and compatriot Jake Birtwhistle was second.
They were also in the mixed relay team that won the gold medal.
Hauser is 10th in the international rankings and he will go head-to-head with New Zealand’s world No.1 Hayden Wilde, as well as English star Alex Yee, who is ninth.
“I’ve always known those performance are there in me, but it’s nice to finally get some bang for my buck,” Hauser said of his encouraging international form this season.
The Australian triathlon and Para triathlon teams are staying away from the Games villages and Hauser is enjoying the isolation.
“It’s nice and relaxed here compared to the other villages, so I’ve been told,” he said.
“We have a great culture here … and we’re in a safe environment that we know we can control and manage. It’s definitely a positive thing.”
When asked about COVID-19 and the possibility of competing against triathletes who have the virus, Hauser was unfazed.
“That just means I need to beat the other athletes by more, to try to get away from them if they do have COVID. It’s extra motivation,” he joked.
Birtwhistle, Brandon Copeland, Sophie Linn and Charlote McShane will also compete in Friday’s individual triathlons.