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Tri-athlete Ryan Bailie locks in Rio Olympics spot

  • Tri-athlete Ryan Bailie locks in Rio Olympics spot

    Australian triathlete Ryan Bailie has earned automatic qualification for the Rio Olympics.

Ryan Bailie has won automatic qualification for the Olympic Games in Rio after narrowly missing a podium place in the ITU World Triathlon Series event on the Gold Coast.

Bailie came fourth - ahead of the next best Australian, fifth-placed Ryan Fisher, and one minute and two seconds behind winner Mario Mola of Spain, who finished in 1:46.27.

It means the Johannesburg-born, Wollongong-based triathlete will join his training partner, Aaron Royle, at his first ever Olympics.

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"It hasn't sunk in yet, to tell you the truth," said Bailie, the highest-ranked Australian in the ITU at No.8.

"If you said six years ago I'd be going to my first Olympic Games I'd probably be laughing at you.

"I'm pretty much speechless."

Royle, who finished in 17th place but had his ticket to Rio booked last year, said he couldn't be any prouder of Bailie.

"That was one special race for him," he said.

"I've been training with him for six years but the last six weeks leading into this, to see how focused he was for that race ... it's actually inspired me to go to a whole new level as well."

Automatic qualification was on offer for the first Australian to finish inside the top 10, but selectors have now been left with a tough decision on who will receive the third and final discretionary spot on the team.

Jacob Birtwhistle finished ninth, while veteran and local favourite Courtney Atkinson's bold attempt at becoming the first Australian male to make three Olympics as a triathlete fell well short.

Atkinson was in strong top 10 contention heading into the final leg of the race but a 15-second penalty for racking his bike in the wrong place proved his undoing, and he came 29th overall.

World No.1 Mola continued his sensational form to pip his compatriot Fernando Alarza, who finished 26 seconds off the pace, and Britain's Olympic bronze medallist Johnathan Brownlee, who was back 41 seconds in third.

It was Brownlee's first race of the year and it clearly took its toll as he collapsed at the line in exhaustion and had to be taken away on a wheelchair.

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