World Triathlon Paths to Paris: Matt Hauser

01 March, 2024 | español

World Triathlon Paths to Paris: Matt Hauser

Olympic years are different. Having crept towards the shining moment with painstakingly small steps over the course of years, all of a sudden everything moves at once.

For all stakeholders of sport, from fans to organisers to those in the media, the sight of the Olympic Games on the horizon is enough to set pulses racing. For the athletes, the effects are even greater still. Everything is brighter, faster, more intense, and the final steps to the Olympics become a blur.

Yet no two athletes’ journeys to the Games are alike. As such, World Triathlon is happy to unveil the opening instalment of the Paths to Paris series in which we trace the roads taken by some of the best triathletes in the world.

Australia’s triathlon stars back on the rise

Today, we start with an athlete more than capable of winning Olympic gold this summer. He knows it. His rivals know it. Crucially, his country knows it too.

When Matthew Hauser (AUS) steps onto the pontoon at the Paris Olympic Games, then, he will do so with the eyes of an expectant home audience upon him.

“I’ve had a couple of bike crashes,” said Hauser, when asked how his training has been. “I had a delayed concussion and a week or two off training which wasn’t fun. It isn’t all smooth sailing but if it was it would be boring.”

Thus far, his path to Paris has been anything but boring.

Hauser Montreal start

COVID derails Test Event plans

After storming to a maiden WTCS win last summer in a performance that put his name on the lips of the entire triathlon community, Hauser was sidetracked by a bout of COVID-19 that forced him out of the Paris Test Event. He did not simply lose out on a chance to scope the Olympic course. He also missed the first opportunity to qualify for the Australian Olympic team.

“Obviously I would have loved to have been in that race in Paris. With Alex (Yee) having such an amazing performance it was definitely tough to sit in my hotel room and watch the livestream.”

“It wasn’t just a case of being sick. I couldn’t get out of bed which made it a little easier to swallow.”

Over the subsequent weeks, his recovery proved tougher than anticipated. At times, he struggled with his breathing, particularly when exerting himself. The second Olympic selection race, though, was around the corner at the WTCS Final in Pontevedra.

“Pontevedra was a bit of a scramble,” admitted Hauser. “But it kind of made me have that killer mentality, where there’s no room for error. I had to nail this race and nail every bit of it to get the qualification standard, which was a top-8.”

He got out to a great start as he led the field out of the water. The second test came on the bike.

“We worked super well on the bike in the front pack. The French were just driving it and I was trying to help where I could. Marten Van Riel was pushing it to the point where he was almost dropping all of us.”

In the end, Hauser did enough to finish 8th and book his place on the team.

“I remember crossing the line and breaking down in tears with my coach. We kind of embraced with a hug and it was a really special moment. Despite all the ups and downs in the year we still managed to tick our major goal of Olympic selection.”

Hauser Montreal

The pieces of the puzzle come together

Now able to look ahead to Paris, Hauser took note of how the race panned out in Pontevedra. The front pack managed to drop favourites Hayden Wilde and Alex Yee after pushing the swim and the bike. Given the same happened at the 2022 WTCS Final, Hauser took the lessons of the races to heart.

“The most important thing is everyone working cohesively together and having that real belief that the hard work you’re putting in can eventuate into a really successful result. It’s shown on the results page: two times at major championships it has worked.”

“It’s not just up to a sub-29 minute run. A few different factors will have to come together to win the race.”

As things stand, Hauser is one of the vanishingly few men in the WTCS field capable of both being the first man out of the water and of recording a field leading run split. Indeed, he accomplished both feats on his way to his maiden WTCS win in Montreal.

In light of his success and ability, the Australian audience will have high hopes for him in Paris.

To date, five Australian women have won Olympic medals. No Australian man has yet done so. The men have enjoyed plenty of success over the years. Peter Robertson won a hat-trick of world titles in the 2000s, Brad Kahlefeldt took gold at the Commonwealth Games as part of a superb 2006 season, and Jacob Birtwhistle picked up the mantle by claiming WTCS race wins.

Now it is Hauser’s turn to shoulder the expectation.

“It fills me with a lot of pride that I have the opportunity to continue that success and to hold the banner for the new wave of triathlon talent out of Australia. I’m embracing it.”

Moreover, he drew lessons from his previous Olympic experience in Tokyo. A disappointing team showing prompted a fall-out in the triathlon community at home.

“It changed my approach to the Games a little bit in the fact that I want to make sure I take every opportunity with both hands. I was probably a little bit young and naïve heading into Tokyo and probably expected more than I could deliver. That was a big eye-opener.”

Equally, in Tokyo Hauser had the chance to see how gold medals across sports lifted the Australian team.

“I’m hungry to provide those empowering and uplifting moments for Australia.”

Australia expects - Hauser ready to deliver

Considering its population size, Australia has long punched above its weight. The country has celebrated world champions in an array of sports and has been a major player in the overall Olympic medal table. Representing a country that sets so much in store by way of cultural identity against its sporting success therefore comes with a unique type of pressure.

Hauser, though, shrugged it off.

“It goes hand in hand with having such a relaxed vibe and being such a young and vibrant country.”

Likewise, he remained level-headed regarding the prospect of becoming the first Australian man to win an Olympic medal in triathlon.

“It would mean the world to me. It’s what every four year cycle is about. If you’re not striving to win or get a medal or be up there in a race then what are you doing? Sixty guys are going to line up on the start line in Paris and essentially go for gold.”

“Everyone that has invested so much time in me and my journey, I want to do it for them.”

“But I’m not putting a medal on a pedestal. Knowing who I need to be and where I need to be physically and mentally to put my best foot forward on the day is what I’m striving for.”

Recent history has shown that Hauser cannot expect smooth sailing all the way to Paris. When he gets there, though, he will be prepared for anything that comes his way.

Australia expects. And Matt Hauser is ready to deliver.


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