Paul Matthews from Casuarina will compete in the World Triathlon Championships in Florida, US.
Paul Matthews from Casuarina will compete in the World Triathlon Championships in Florida, US. Crystal Spencer

Paul in biggest race of his career

DISAPPOINTED with his finish in the Noosa Triathlon a fortnight ago, Casuarina triathlete Paul Matthews is hoping to pick up the pace for Saturday’s 70.3 World Championships in Florida.

Matthews will line up for the season-defining event – the biggest race of his career – a genuine contender for the title after enjoying his best Ironman 70.3 Series to date.

And, after countless hours, years of monotonous training, he is merely 70.3 miles (113.1km) away from achieving his goal of returning to Australia ranked among the top 10 triathletes in the world.

“Top 10 would be nice, top five even better, and somewhere up the front would be very nice,” Matthews said.

“The world champs is the big one, and my goal all year has been to be going good by the time they roll around.

“I’ve been in some really good form the last few months and I’m feeling as fit as ever.”

Before Matthews left for his base in Boulder, ColOrado, earlier this year, he told the Tweed Daily News he was simply looking to build on an improved 2008/09 campaign in which he registered an impressive victory in a half ironman and several podium finishes across the full distance.

But the 27-year-old achieved so much more, putting in a career-best performance to win New York’s inaugural Ironman Syracuse 70.3 Triathlon in September where he clocked an impressive three hours and 49 minutes.

In doing so he ensured his place in the event’s history books, with his name the first etched on the perpetual trophy, and booked his berth at this weekend’s season-ending event.

Enjoying his best international campaign to date, Matthews has also put in several strong performances at the nine other events he contested this series, with his third in Calgary and second in Muskoka among the best.

However, everything Matthews has strived so hard to achieve comes down to Saturday’s race and he is ready to leave it all on the track.

“I can’t wait to race,” Matthews said.

“I’ll hold nothing back and hopefully this will be my year.”

After leading for much of the Noosa event, Matthews was gobbled up in the run and slumped to a mediocre sixth-placed finish.

Out of the water behind eventual race winner Courtney Atkinson, Matthews rode himself into the lead just ahead of coach and a six-time Noosa champion Craig Walton.

Yet the pair was unable to break away from the chasing pack until there was merely 5km to ride, and a 45 second lead was all he carried into the run.

“Noosa was a little below par, but I still had a great swim, and rode brilliantly,” Matthews said.

“I recorded my fastest bike time to date on my Trek Speed Concept.

“But it was very frustrating because there was a lot of drafting happening which meant I wasn’t able to get away until late.

“It was never going to be enough for me because the ITU boys run too quick and all I had been training for was a half ironman run, so I drifted back in the run.”

Regardless of slipping down the pecking order on the Sunshine Coast, the experienced campaigner remains confident of a much-improved performance in Clearwater.

Everything Matthews has done in his career has led to this moment.

He first began competing in triathlons at the age of 11, starting his triathlon journey with the Murwillumbah Triathlon Club – now known as Tweed Valley Triathletes – under the instruction of Jeff Collier (swimming) and Brian Chapman (running).

It was apparent from a young age that “Barney” was always going to be a sport star, representing Murwillumbah High School at the Australian All Schools Championships in triathlon, cross country and athletics, at one stage holding the national 2000m steeplechase title and under-17 record.

He progressed through the junior ranks at the Australian Institute of Sport and Queensland Academy of Sport with his first major international success coming at Edmonton, Canada, in 2001 where he claimed the 16-19 years World Triathlon Championship.

In two days he will get his chance to shine on the international stage once more.

A 1.2 mile (1.9km) swim, 56 mile (90.1km) bike and 13.1 mile (21.1km) run awaits Matthews and the 1800 competitors set to tackle the gruelling course across the various divisions, with a professional prize purse totalling US$100,000 (AU$99,743).

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