Josh Stapley will race at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final on Sunday at the Gold Coast

TAKING on the best triathletes in his age group in the world – it is a massive challenge which awaits Josh Stapley this Sunday on the Gold Coast.

MOUNTING A CHALLENGE: Josh Stapley will race at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final on Sunday at the Gold Coast. Photo: CONTRIBUTED

MOUNTING A CHALLENGE: Josh Stapley will race at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final on Sunday at the Gold Coast. Photo: CONTRIBUTED

But even qualifying for the Australian team to contest the 20-24 years male’s standard race at the International Triathlon Union’s World Triathlon Grand Final was a massive challenge in itself.

After racing at worlds in 2015 in Chicago, placing 25th in his 18-19 male category, Stapley was hit hard by injury and illness setbacks. In turn it meant he had to overcome mental hurdles too.

“I don’t think that I ever doubted it, but there were certainly times when I doubted if I’d get back to it this year,” he said.

“I had the broken neck in 2016 which was a big setback. I’d then hoped to get back on the national team last year for Rotterdam but then I was hampered with illness all of last year, which meant that was off the cards.

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“Then the start of my qualifying campaign this year to pick up a calf tear, that was a punch in the face really. To then have those first two qualifying races and well and truly under perform to my potential, it made me really nervous I wouldn’t be able to make the team, or if I did make the team, I was worried that I hadn’t really earned my spot given the results I had.

“But to then put together the race I had at Wollongong and pick up the win there, that was such a confidence boost to me. I knew then that I’d not only made the team, but I knew I deserved it after getting the win and a PB time.”

Winning his age group at March’s Wollongong qualifier in a time of two hours, six minutes and five seconds to break his three-year-old personal best mark secured Stapley’s spot on the Australian team. With help from coach Mel Ashton and Kieran O’Dwyer, he’s trained well to prepare for Sunday.

He will tackle a 1.5 kilometre swim, 40km cycle leg and 10km run on a course he feels will play to his strengths.

“It’s a point-to-point swim which really helps me as I’m not the strongest in the field, it makes it easier as I’m not worrying about turning points … it also looks like being a wetsuit swim too,” he said.

“The bike course is a two-lap course which I really enjoy too, it’s a mental thing for me as I don’t enjoy the long stretches, and it’s relatively flat too which suits me … it’s a real power course.

“The run is dead flat too.

“I’m really excited because it’s the first time I’ve been up to worlds for a couple of years and to have them here in Australia is really exciting. I’ve got a lot of friends and team-mates who are going to be up there, so it’s going to be a really special experience.

“Certainly the nerves are there as well though. I’ve been doing really well in training and that sort adds a little bit to the nerves because I know what I’m capable of now.”

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