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Adapt and Overcome

2020 was not a normal year for any of us. Australian triathlete Aaron Royle faced the same challenges as most, trying to adapt and make the most of any opportunity

Aaron Royle with Giant Bike

Aaron Royle usually spends his year based out of Europe, travelling the globe and racing the World Triathlon Series, the highest level of racing in the Olympic distance format.

This past year started like any other Olympic year for Aaron, training well and focusing on qualifying for Tokyo—just like he did back in 2016 for the Rio Olympics. But 2020 had other plans, and for Aaron it was about adapting and finding new opportunities wherever possible.

“It’s been one of the most mentally challenging years, I think, for most athletes,” Aaron said. “Just literally training for races that haven’t gone ahead.”

With the global pandemic spreading throughout Europe, Aaron and his partner Non made the decision to travel back to Wollongong, Australia, where Aaron spent much of his early triathlon career living and training.

The pandemic was also starting to cause state border closures in Australia, so Aaron had to make a quick decision to leave his home state of New South Wales and cross the border north into Queensland just a couple of days before it would close. The prospect of adding another two weeks of quarantine was really not an option for an athlete trying to stay at the top of his game.

Being in Queensland presented Aaron with an opportunity to race an Ironman 70.3 event. He had only raced the Half-Ironman distance once before but decided to seize the opportunity as he knew it could be his only chance at a proper race in 2020.

“I thought, I’ve been training quite well, I’m in good shape,” he said. “The night before the race I was like a kid in the candy store. Doing something that I’m not as experienced in, I was just excited.”

Despite the lack of experience at that distance, Aaron went on to win the Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast, finishing almost a minute ahead of a strong Aussie contingent of contenders. A fast bike leg on his Giant Trinity Advanced Pro equipped with CADEX Aero race wheels helped propel him to the win.

Aaron winning Triathlon

Photo by Rebecca Ohlwein

“I’m proud that I was able to execute a solid swim, bike and run performance and happy that my decision to make the dash across the border was worthwhile,” Aaron said after the finish. “A bonus was qualifying my slot for next year’s Ironman 70.3 World Championships.

Looking ahead, Aaron’s focus remains the same: to qualify for the Australian team at the Tokyo Olympics and to finish his sprint distance triathlon career with a bang.

“After that, who knows?” Aaron said. “Maybe I might have the opportunity to race against the best in the world at the 70.3 distance.”