In Mixed Relay’s first event since the announcement to be included as an official Olympic sport for the Tokyo 2020 Programme, Australia put forth a fierce come from behind finish to claim its first-ever World Championship title with a team of Charlotte McShane, Matthew Hauser, Ashleigh Gentle and Jacob Birtwhistle.
In a fight to finish line, USA scored the silver medal, while the Netherlands crossed over for the bronze for a time-time podium in the woman-man-woman-man relay, which saw each athlete complete a 300-metre swim, 7-kilometre bike and 1.6-kilometre run.
The NZ team made up of Andrea Hewitt, Tony Dodds, Deborah Lynch and Ryan Sissons knew it would be a tough race, finishing in 9th place.
“We were expecting it to be a lot tougher now as it is in the Olympics, with most countries putting in there best team,” Dodds said.
“We know we are a very strong team, it is just about where to put us athletes in which order, that is what we experimented with today. We thought why not change it up and if the race goes the way we are hoping then we are going to do well,” he said.
Dodds is under no illusion that mixed relays will suit some athletes more than others.
“I think different people suit this type of racing, there are guys and girls out here who aren’t particularly strong in Sprint or Olympic but are insanely good at this distance and that showed today, and they put there athletes in the right positions at the right time,” he said.
“We have a bit to learn still, and may have to take some risks in the future. It is a solid result but far from our best.”
It was anyone’s title after the first leg of the relay, which saw Spain, USA, Belgium and Yuka Sato of Japan neck and neck as they tagged off to their teammates.
As the first group of men took off, it was the bike leg that ended up being the crucial part of the story as Ben Kanute (USA) and Dorian Coninx (FRA) took off together as a breakaway pair. Upon entering the run they had a healthy lead of 11 seconds that they passed on to the second group of women.
While France looked to be a top contender for a medal in the third heat of the race, a penalty inside the second transition took them out of the running.
A swift solo ride and run from Katie Zaferes put USA ahead of the bunch and looking confident going into the final tag off. However it was the competitive spirit of Joanna Brown (CAN), Rachel Klamer(NED), Gentle and Lucy Hall (GBR) that made sure that the final leg of the race would not be an easy one.
While at first a breakaway from Matt Mcelroy (USA) and Alexis Lepage(CAN) made it seem that the gold and silver were guaranteed for the two nations, Lepage suffered a slip on the bike that caused Canada to be caught by the fiery chase.
Hard pushes from the Aussies, Brits, and Dutch meant that the final transition would bring five nations together to compete for only three medals.
Mimicking the individual men’s race from the day before, Birtwhistle gunned it in the final metres to bypass the field and snag the finish line to be welcomed by his teammates as the Aussie nation collected the World Title for the very first time.
It was the USA who finished next to take the silver.
“This is my favourite race every year, I love it, I get pumped up for it. It seems that each year I need a little bit of redemption from the year before, but you aren’t just racing for yourself, you are racing for your teammates and I think everyone on our team stepped up today,” said Kanute.
The Dutch finished off the podium as the young Jorik Van Egdomclosed it down and gave the Holland nation a first-time relay medal.
Marco Van der Stel said of getting the bronze, “Hamburg is always a fantastic race, it is full of crowds. I always love to be in Hamburg and then we come in third today, it is really a dream, we never thought, we hoped to be top eight, but to finish on the podium, it was just amazing teamwork.”