2018 Commonwealth Games Team: Gillian Backhouse
History will be made in April when more than 6600 athletes and team officials from 70 Commonwealth nations and territories descend on the Gold Coast to compete in and celebrate sport during the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018). Among the athletes competing, Australia has a strong triathlon contingency ready to mix it up with the very best. We take a closer look at the Aussie triathletes, who will proudly wear the green and gold, and stand on the start line of what is set to be a fast and furious event. Meet Gillian Backhouse.
Date of birth: 1991
Hometown: Armidale, NSW
Best performances/career highlights: U23 Duathlon World Campion 2014 / U23 Triathlon World Championship silver 2014 / Chengdu World cup Gold 2014 / Bronze WTS Edmonton 2015 / Karlovy Vary World Cup Gold 2017
Something we don’t know about you: PDH/PE was my worst subject at school and I couldn’t wait to drop it at the end of year 10. I loved racing (back then swimming) and aspired to become an Olympic athlete but I couldn’t sprint to save my life and was terrible at anything that required any coordination. I was one of those kids that were picked last every time when choosing teams, not someone you would think would become a professional athlete!
What did it mean for you to be selected for the Commonwealth
Games team? Where were you when you got the call? What was your reaction?
I was at home in Armidale when I got the call and fortunately it was good news. Being named in the Commonwealth Games team was an enormous relief; satisfying and incredibly exciting. After not being granted a start in the second qualification race I was hesitant to believe I was in with a chance of selection. Being selected felt like a big acknowledgement of the work I had done last year. The opportunity to represent Australia and race on home soil at the Commonwealth Games is extremely exciting.
What are your expectations of the Commonwealth Games as an event?
I’m not really sure what to expect from the event. I’ve never been to a major Games before, so it will be very exciting.
Tell me about the importance of racing in front of an Australian crowd?
The majority of our racing is done overseas, and while I know there are many people supporting me back home at these races, it’s nothing like having your family and friends on the sidelines and the support of a home crowd. The few times I have got to race in a major competition in Australia have been special, and I think getting to represent Australia at the Commonwealth Games on home soil will be phenomenal.
What are you expecting from the race over the Sprint format?
I’m expecting fast and furious racing. In shorter racing, the pace is on from the start and there is no room for errors like fumbling in transition.
Does the course/format suit your strengths?
The Gold Coast course is fairly flat, so I think it will be more about tactics as to how the race pans out, which determines who’s strengths are suited.
Given the smaller field and the absence of non-Commonwealth Games athletes, how do you see the race playing out differently to a normal WTS or ITU race?
The Commonwealth Games is certainly a smaller field than some of our WTS races, which tends to lead to the race breaking up more. There are not as many rungs in the ladder to climb, and fewer places to hide on the bike, so any weaknesses tend to be exposed more than in a large field. The smaller field, however, doesn’t mean it will be any weaker.
With the importance of peaking for “one day” in April, what is your preparation for this event? How has it changed from your normal early season preparation? What training have you been focusing on specifically?
We used the 2017 season as a trial run at peaking early in the season. What we did worked well and I had some of my best races early on, last year, so we’re doing bascially the same again this year. I’ve just finished a big fitness block and will now start race-specific preparation. I’ll do a couple of races in the lead up to the Commonwealth Games to practice getting the processes right and then I’ll hit the Games with full gusto.
Are you looking forward to the Mixed Relay? What is special about this event?
I had the opportunity to race the Mixed Team Relay World Championships in 2015. It was one of the most enjoyable and exciting races I’ve ever done – having the opportunity to compete as a team is special. The format also makes for fast and exciting racing, and I think it is a fantastic opportunity for the sport of triathlon to grow.
Images: ITU Media/Janos M.Schmidt