Duathlon duo in Aussie first

Sam Mileham and Aleisha Wesley have their eyes on the Olympics (but she’s got to get over Covid first). Photo by Steve Grant.

TWO Melville athletes have been chosen among Australia’s first-ever representatives in the duathlon category of The World Games in Alabama later this month.

The World Games is the little brother of the Olympics – the games that haven’t yet been accepted into the main event – but still attracts nearly 200,000 spectators over the 11 days of competition.

Attadale resident Sam Mileham and Bull Creek resident Aleisha Wesley qualified for the duathlon (run/cycle/run) after a last-gasp dash to Bahrain in March. Professional triathlete Matt Smith, also a Perth resident, will also be on the Aussie team.

Mileham told the Herald the dash was necessary because Covid prevented he and Wesley from getting to many qualifiers and their international ranking had slipped too far.

Last hurrah

“The qualification deadline was Monday March 13, and this race in Bahrain came up on Saturday the 11th, and we thought ‘this is the last chance – borders have come down – this is the last hurrah’,” Mileham said.

Adding to the pressure, only the top four would automatically qualify for The World Games (the Bahrain race being the Asian championships), though a fifth place might have seen Mileham slip high enough in the rankings.

“Luckily we performed well, Alicia and I both got second; it was a great result for our first international race in two-and-a-half years.”

The pair then continued on to race in Europe, and Mileham says they performed so well he’s now got his sights on representing Australia in the triathlon at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

“I’d say we had the best couple of races in Europe ever, and it made us realise that the distance between us and the front isn’t an unbridgeable gap.

“For one of the races, the guy who won it just finished eighth at one of the World Series races, and I was 90 second s off. 

“I finished in the 40s, so it doesn’t sound great there were 40 guys within 90 seconds; it’s such a fine margin.

“In my opinion, I had a rubbish run. I was with him, in the main pack on the bike, and I just ran poorly. I’ve run 14.27 here in Perth and I think I ran nearly 16 minutes.”

A crucial 93 second difference. While qualification has earned the pair a free Aussie t-shirt, they have so far self-funded their athletic careers, working part-time and putting what they can aside. A podium finish at the World Games could be a game-changer though, as it might catch the eye of the national selectors and earn them time at the WA Institute of Sport and it’s world-class facilities.

“The long-term goal is a rough plan of save for the next few years, then race hard, and then hopefully get some sponsors. And that will lead us to potentially Olympic cycle time.

“We think the potential is there.”

Mileham says he’s partly driven by not wanting to walk away from the sport wondering ‘what if’ but he’d also reached a crossroads back in Britain where he hails from, having to choose between university studies and age-level amateur racing or turning to the elite British Super Series.

He’d been injured and while watching the racing from afar decided he wasn’t getting the same feeling from the amateurs as he was from mixing it with the elite riders.

So he made the decision, with his family, to move to Australia where he says the weather, long cycle paths and top-level triathlon community have made for a perfect training ground.

Wesley was recovering from Covid this week, making good use of her home treadmill, but the pair fly out early in the new week and will have a few days to acclimatise, with the temperatures expected to be in the high 30s for the games.

They’ll compete in individual events, but Mileham will have to outdo Smith to earn a spot with Wesley in the mixed race.

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