World Cup triathlon cleared, Copeland keen

Murray Wenzel
Jake Birtwhistle is a standout to power the Australian charge in Mooloolaba

Brandon Copeland concedes an Olympic berth this year might be a stretch but that it could all change if he "takes a few scalps" at Saturday's Mooloolaba triathlon World Cup opener.

The 23-year-old is among a raft of Australians contending for Games qualification points on the Sunshine Coast beachside circuit, with officials on Friday afternoon giving the event the green light despite coronavirus fears.

Copeland said he had goosebumps as he crossed the line second in Mooloolaba last year to kickstart a season that finished with him rated among the world's top-five under-23 talents.

As many as three Australian men will be named for Tokyo, with Jake Birtwhistle fifth in the International Triathlon Union rankings and a clear standout to power the charge in what would be his first Olympics.

But behind him in a crowded top 50 sit Rio Olympians Aaron Royle, Ryan Bailie and Ryan Fisher as well as fellow up-and-comers Matthew Hauser and Luke Willian.

Qualification points will determine how many athletes each country sends to the Games but the discretionary selection process will ensure plenty of nervous moments until selectors meet for the final time in June.

Willian, a winner in Mooloolaba two years ago, Bailie and Hauser will line up with Copeland on Saturday and offer the first chance for bragging rights.

"I still see myself as a developing athlete, so Tokyo may be a bit of stretch and it's more towards Birmingham (2022 Commonwealth Games) and Paris (2024 Olympics)," he said.

"But I'd love to take a few scalps, that would be a big step in the right direction.

"There's a bit of a rejuvenation with the younger guys putting pressure on the older guys that went to Rio, it's good to be part of it."

Like Birtwhistle, Ashleigh Gentle is in the box seat to lead the women's contingent in Japan.

She will defend her 2019 Mooloolaba crown in a stacked field including Tokyo aspirants Natalie Van Coevorden, Jaz Hedgeland, Emma Jeffcoat and Kelly-Ann Perkins.