Each year on Australia Day, Gunnedah hosts what is thought to be the second longest, continuous triathlon in the country.

The event has been running for more than 40 years and triathlon competitors are back for more in 2024.

Sibling act, Kate and Josh Spinks, will be among them.

Josh competed in his first triathlon-related event just last month and won, the All Schools Aquathon in Sydney.

The race featured a 100m swim and 1km run which the 11-year-old competitor from Gunnedah completed with apparent ease.

Sister Katie, 14, competed at the same event and placed a credible fifth in her age division.

Gunnedah’s Australia Day triathlon coordinator John Hickey was part of the first event in 1983 and will help steer the troops around the course again next week.

Hickey recently took the reins as the new Gunnedah Triathlon Club president. He hoped this year’s Australia Day event will be the start of a rebuilding year for the club and the sport in Gunnedah.

When the Australia Day triathlon started in Gunnedah four decades ago, Hickey competed against Martin McCann.

The field was small but competitive.

“There were two people competing that day … Martin and I,” Hickey said with a grin.

Every year since, on January 26, Gunnedah has hosted a triathlon of some description – including several while Hickey was interstate and in recent years under strict COVID social distancing requirements.

“We’ll have a limited field this year, start slowly and hopefully next year open it up,” Hickey said.

The long-time coach recalled how the Gunnedah club was once rated as number one for triathlon juniors in the country under his tutelage.

Such was the club’s popularity, at its peak it was not unusual for it to host 60 competitors or more to an event in Gunnedah.

Local interest and participation in the sport has since waned but with help from people like club treasurer Mick Ludlow, the “compact committee” planned to revitialise the sport in Gunnedah.

Hickey is proud to again carry the baton for triathlon in Gunnedah with a bold vision to rebuild the club to its former glory.

“The legacy is important to me,” he said.

“I want Gunnedah to be back on top with a (representative) pathway for juniors to aspire to.”

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