Natalie Van Coevorden learned the hard way that a chip on your shoulder is too much excess weight to carry in an international triathlon.
Now she’s racing for herself again, the 29-year-old looms as Australia’s best chance of a medal in the Commonwealth Games women’s triathlon.
Van Coevorden was a controversial non-selection for Australia’s ill-fated Tokyo Olympics triathlon team.
She tried to show the selectors the error of their ways in races after the team was picked, but eventually realised her motivation at international races was all wrong.
“It was one of the hardest years I’ve been through,” she said of 2021.
“I tried to race after the Olympics announcement and I was racing to try and prove a point rather than racing for myself.
“I reallly got caught in that bubble … it took me a while to get out of that.
“I know that’s behind me and there are good things to come.
Van Coevorden had gone overseas in 2020, rather than stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic, and feels that counted against her when it came to picking the Tokyo team.
She felt as though she had gone outside the national squad system and paid for it.
“I was the only one who was racing internationally,” she said.
“I kind of got punished for doing my job, in some way.”
Adding to a tough time, her family’s 14-year-old labrador Keisha died while she was away.
“It was really sad – when I left (overseas) I was like ‘you can’t leave me, I’m going to be back home eventually’, but unfortunately she died while I was away,” she said.
They now have a kelpie, Izzy, who kept Van Coevorden busy when she returned to Australia earlier this year for a few weeks.
Now she is at her first Games, Olympic or Commonwealth, and looking long-term to Paris 2024.
“After last year … it was pretty cool that finally my results could get me onto a major Games team,” she said.
“It’s a really exciting time.
“I’m looking forward to getting out there and proving I deserve to be on that team … I really want to put my best foot forward.”
The great Flora Duffy is the woman to beat on Friday at Sutton Park, north of Birmingham, in the sprint-distance race.
The Bermuda star is the reigning Commonwealth champion and also dominated last year’s Olympics race.
England will also be formidale opposition, with Sophie Coldwell, Sian Rainsley and Georgia Taylor-Brown above Van Coevorden (20th) in the international rankings.
Charlotte McShane and Sophie Linn will also race for Australia in the 750m swim, 20km cycle and 5km run event.