Three Gunnedah athletes have been selected in the Northern Inland Academy of Sport’s under-17 triathlon squad after successful trial efforts across the weekend.

Katie Spinks, Audrey Hannaford and Angus Hobson were selected along with athletes from Uralla, Tamworth and Armidale.

NIAS head coach John Hickey will be joined by his wife Donna as assistant coach to get the squad up and running again after a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

John Hickey said the Gunnedah athletes had been working hard at all three disciplines, and with a strong base as members of the swimming club, they are sure to go well.

“These three are all very committed to training which is a must for a sport like triathlon,” Hickey said.

“On Saturday, we held an introductory day into the academy and the three components of tri – swimming, running and cycling – with the Gunnedah pool as our base. On Sunday, we worked on cycling at the new bike track at Tamworth which is a great venue.”

Hickey said the three Gunnedah youngsters have made a commitment to the sport and the multiple training sessions required.

“Triathlon is a long-term commitment, at NIAS they will be trained in the finer points of running and cycling, transition and nutrition. The parents also need to make that commitment with the weekends often given over to training and competition,” Hickey said.

“Swimming obviously needs to be the strongest aptitude and as these kids are all members of the local club they have a great start – they have all dabbled in athletics and cross country which is also a great asset.

“Above all it has to be fun,” he said.

“This squad will lead the way in getting triathlon back to a high level in NIAS – our main goal for next year is the All Schools Triathlon in March.”

A committed triathlete in his younger days, John Hickey has coached for more than 40 years at a country, state and national level. 

In 2019, he received the Service to Sport award after establishing the NSW Pro Tour to develop athletes’ skills, introduced a junior development program, and the first all-indigenous triathlon while working with youth in East Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. Donna Hickey is also an experienced triathlete. 

John Hickey was instrumental in introducing triathlon to Gunnedah, competing in one of Australia’s earliest triathlons at Penrith in December 1982. In 1983, at the request of the late Cr Mikie Maas, Hickey began to run the Australia Day triathlon sponsored originally by local businessmen Charles Priest and Peter Stayte.

A women’s event was introduced in 1985 with Donna Hickey and Amanda Haling the first to compete. It is now the second longest triathlon in Australia. Son Jack Hickey was the first to win a national title taking out the Australian All Schools junior championships at the age of 14. Since that time local triathletes have gone on to compete with success at NSW, Australian and world championships, including the Hawaiian Ironman. 

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