Australian Ashleigh Gentle is just thankful she can now race internationally once again as she prepares to take on CLASH Miami on Friday.
The two-time Olympian spent the majority of the global pandemic at home in Australia, living under some of the most stringent COVID-19 restrictions in the world. Constraints which limited her ability both to travel and compete.
“2022 is a clean slate,” explained the 31-year-old on Breakfast with Bob ahead of CLASH Miami.
“I’m just happy and grateful to be at Clash Endurance Miami and to be racing here on Friday – it feels like it has been a long time coming.
“There’s not been much racing at all, obviously the worldwide lockdown in 2020 and then we [with her partner Josh Amberger] decided to stay home – Australians were told basically not to travel.
“Even in 2021, I decided to prep for the Olympics at home because we still had really strict hotel quarantine for two weeks coming back from overseas, so if you were to go overseas you would have to commit to living there until the Games without being able to come home.”
“A lot of Australians missed a lot of racing unless they committed to an environment overseas, which some did.
“I wish I could have done more races – in hindsight maybe I could have – but in the reality the rules and everything was changing so rapidly. I think I made the best decisions with the information I had.”
Third wheel at Couples Championship
“It’s been quite the trip so far,” she joked, “but everyone at the Couples Champs were super welcoming as I was there by myself.
“I was still able to do a 5km run and a charity relay – they donated a lot of money that weekend so it was great to be a part of.
“I was very jealous watching, I wish Josh and I could have a chance to be competitive in that race, but Non [Stanford] and Aaron [Royle] did amazing.”
With the 2022 race schedule now getting into full swing in the U.S., Gentle has made the difficult decision to stay put after CLASH Miami, despite admitting she had booked her air ticket home in her mind multiple times.
“I think I’ll stay in the USA after the race. I think I’d like to do IRONMAN Oceanside 70.3 at the start of April – from what I’ve seen in previous years it’s really competitive.
“I’d also like to do the PTO Series, but I don’t have any points, I don’t know how I’ll qualify for it, but there are so many races – I’m just going to experience a whole lot and see what happens.”
Gentle, for now, sees CLASH Miami as the ideal start point in 2022.
“This year for me is all about experience, I want to be able to do courses like CLASH Endurance Miami, and then I want to go do some hilly races, flat races and half-distance.
“This is a cool distance for me too because it’s early season – everyone’s at different points in their prep – but it’s a perfect in-between distance of Olympic and half.”