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ROAD TO RIO | Aaron Royle |Triathlete

It’s an Olympic year, so dust off the green and gold beanie and tune up your “Oi Oi Oi”! This month (and every month leading up to Rio), Hunter Academy of Sports will delve into their archives to find us some locally trained talent we can all get behind on the Road to Rio - which is hopefully paved with Gold. (Photo Credit AOC)

This month’s athlete is the one and only Aaron Royle. Aaron is currently Australia's highest ranked International Triathlon Union Triathlete and it’s no surprise that Royle has already earned an elusive spot on the Australian Olympic Team for Rio after securing a sixth place finish at the Rio Test Event in August 2015.

But before the 25-year-old debuted on the international stage, Aaron (also affectionately known as “Bugs”) competed right here in Newcastle as a member of the Hunter Academy of Sport Triathlon squad from 2003 to 2008. Currently, the Hunter Academy triathlon squad boasts five members under 18yrs who will compete in the national competition, with another six ranked in the top-20 triathletes in NSW.

Reminiscing about his time in Newcastle, Aaron comments that Triathalon was not originally his chosen sport.

“When I was younger I played just about all the ‘popular’ sports that many Aussie kids play these days. Cricket, Swimming, Soccer, Running, Football to name a few. It was quickly established that anything that involved a ball or any hand-eye coordination wasn’t really my strong point, ” Aaron laughs.

“Triathlon started for me at about the age of 13. My swim coach at the time, who participated in age group races, suggested that I give one a go. The closest Tri club was Maitland Triathlon club, so dad and I drove the 30 minutes from Newcastle to Maitland one Sunday morning to give it a go. I had no idea what I was doing, but I had a blast. I was a swimmer who ran well so those two were fine, and what kid doesn’t love riding their bike? So those 3 added together was a new level of awesomeness!”

Aaron cemented himself as a strong contender on the Road to Rio back in 2012 when he was named the Under-23 World Champion and then in 2014 was awarded the title of Australian Male Triathlete of the Year. Royle finished the 2015 season on a high with bronze at the Stockholm WTS race and a fifth place finish in Edmonton.

When asked about the qualifying event that secured his spot on the Australian Olympic team, Aaron explains that this event was very different to a lot of ITU (International Triathlon Union) events that he was accustomed to.

“For starters, the swim in Rio was different to a lot of ITU (International Triathlon Union) swims. Beach start, choppy ocean water and a one lap swim. I thought those three factors would suit my swimming style and I was happy to see that by the first buoy I was in the first handful.

“There was talk about a very tough bike course in Rio, and while it may have had a bit more hype than it deserved it was definitely a tough course with a high chance of a small group off the front. I didn’t dare look back at the start of the bike to see where others were; I just concentrated on helping our lead group work well together to establish a group off the front. Top 10 was all I needed to qualify for the Olympics so I set out to run the first few laps a bit conservatively and although it wasn’t a super quick run, I was able to hold onto 6th and qualify.”

Aaron is currently competing in Wollongong as he prepares for his Olympic debut. Stay up to date with Aaron via his website

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