One of the most consistent and successful Australian triathletes of recent years, Queensland’s Ashleigh Gentle has a racing record that would be the envy of most.
Here’s how she got there, and why now more than ever, she’s the one to watch…
Who is Ashleigh Gentle?
Talented at many sports in her youth – netball, touch rugby, athletics – Brisbane-born Ashleigh Gentle initially took up triathlon simply to improve her running speed. But her enjoyment of swimming and cycling, along with her proven ability in both disciplines, catapulted her onto a multisport career path.
The Queenslander experienced plenty of success as a junior (a world championship gold, plus a pair of silvers) before graduating to become one of the World Triathlon’s most consistent performers, her series highpoint being an overall silver in 2017, along with race wins in Montreal and Gold Coast, plus several podium finishes.
One of the fastest runners in women’s triathlon over the last decade, Gentle’s trophy cabinet also includes world championship and Commonwealth golds in mixed relay. However, the few black marks in her race history relate to her record in the Olympics.
Surprisingly not selected for the 2012 London Games, Gentle’s only finish came in Rio four years later, where she came home in a decidedly underwhelming 26th place. Worse was to come in Tokyo in 2021 where she failed to finish, being lapped out on the bike leg.
Moving up to long-course racing in 2022, though, Gentle’s early success in prestigious PTO middle-distance events, such as the PTO Canadian Open and the Collins Cup, bodes well for a fresh chapter in this top performer’s triathlon career. There’s plenty of fuel left in Ashleigh Gentle’s tank.
How old is Ashleigh Gentle?
Ashleigh Gentle was born on 25 February 1991, making her 31 years of age.
Ashleigh Gentle’s career highlights
August 2007: World champs silver at the age of 16
In the world championships in Hamburg, Gentle finishes second behind Britain’s Hollie Avil in the junior women’s race, beating the hour mark by six seconds.
Gentle repeats her silver at the 2008 world champs in Vancouver, losing out to another Brit, Kirsty McWilliam.
August 2009: A maiden victory as an elite woman
Gentle takes her first win as a senior at the Singapore ITU Triathlon Premium Asian Cup. Being the only competitor to post a sub-40min run ensures a comfortable winning margin.
September 2010: A golden moment in Hungary
Gentle is still a teenager at the 2010 ITU World Championships in Budapest, and finally converts those two junior silvers into gold. Again, it’s her run that makes all the difference and she crosses the line with more than a minute to spare over the field.
July 2011: Top of the World Cup podium in Canada
Now aged 20 and racing exclusively as an elite woman, Gentle takes her first ITU World Cup win when another dominant run separates her from the pack in Edmonton.
August 2011: First WTS top-10 finish
Gentle’s form in Canada continues a month later in London where she makes the top 10 in an ITU World Triathlon Series race, placing her in the well-appointed company of Helen Jenkins, Gwen Jorgensen, Nicola Spirig and Gentle’s fellow Aussie Emma Snowsill.
September 2012: Overlooked for Olympics but top-10 form continues
Having not made the Australian Olympic squad for this summer’s London Olympics, a sixth place in Yokohama marks Gentle’s fourth top-10 finish of the season, after impressive showings in San Diego, Kitzbühel and Hamburg.
May 2015: A belated first appearance on a WTS podium
After a couple of seasons consolidating her reputation as a consistent top-10 triathlete, Gentle bags her first WTS podium place, finishing second to Jorgensen in Yokohama.
August 2016: Olympic disappointment in Rio
After registering two more WTS podium places in Abu Dhabi and Yokohama, Gentle travels to Brazil for her first Olympics in Rio. However, she is dogged by pre-race equipment problems and a frustrating bike leg, finishing down in 26th position.
July 2017: A second world title arrives
In Hamburg, Gentle is part of the Australian squad – alongside Charlotte McShane, Matthew Hauser and Jacob Birtwhistle – that takes gold at the mixed relay world championships. Despite its triathlon pedigree, it’s Australia’s first triumph in the competition.
August 2017: A first WTS victory sets up overall silver
Three weeks after taking world championship gold, Gentle transfers that form to Montreal where she takes her maiden WTS victory, holding off Bermuda’s Flora Duffy. It’s the highpoint of her most successful WTS season; she finishes second overall behind Duffy.
April 2018: Commonwealth gold is added to the medal haul
The Australian mixed-relay squad are triumphant again, this time at the Commonwealth Games on Gentle’s home patch of the Gold Coast in Queensland, where they fight off the challenge of a super-strong British quartet.
September 2018: Second WTS win in final-sprint shootout
Back on the Gold Coast, Gentle takes a second WTS win at the ITU Grand Final, outsprinting Vicky Holland in the golden late-afternoon sunshine. The Brit doesn’t care, though. She’s just become world champion.
July 2021: Further Olympic disappointment, this time in Tokyo
After a frustrating Covid-enforced lockdown when she’s effectively quarantined in Australia, Gentle travels to Japan for the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics. However, again there’s no glory at the Games. She is lapped out on the bike leg.
July 2022: Middle-distance glory points to the future
In the unorthodox 100km format at the inaugural PTO Canadian Open in Edmonton, Gentle records the fastest run split to win, beating seasoned campaigners such as Spirig, Paula Findlay and Holly Lawrence. The Australian pockets a not-too-shabby $100k in prize money.
August 2022: Impressive performance at the Collins Cup
A month later, at the PTO’s flagship event in Bratislava, the Collins Cup, Gentle’s the second-fastest woman across the various heats, her time only bettered by the formidable Daniela Ryf.
However, Gentle can’t stop her Team International colleagues finishing second behind reigning champs, Team Europe.
September 2022: Dramatic win at PTO US Open
Consolidating her long-course prowess, Gentle pulls an incredible performance out of the bag on the 100km format race in Dallas for another $100k pay day.
Ashleigh Gentle in quotes
On the disappointment of her first Olympics, in Rio in 2016, when she finished 26th: “It was very overwhelming. I think I stayed on track as best as I could, but even in the lead-up, both of my bags and bike went missing. Then my bike turned up completely broken.”
On her first WTS race victory in Montreal in 2017, her best season in the series: “It has taken me six years to get on top of the WTS podium, six years of ups and downs, and a few second places. And I finally made it.”
On moving up to middle-distance racing and winning the inaugural PTO Canadian Open: “I didn’t start the sport of triathlon for money, but I have bills to pay. That [total] million-dollar prize purse will go a long way.”
What’s next for Ashleigh Gentle?
Now into her thirties, Gentle has admitted that long-course racing is her future. She’s certainly taken middle-distance competition in her stride, as the victories in the PTO Canadian and US Opens have shown, performances backed up by being the second-fastest woman at the Collins Cup in August.
Top image: Delly Carr/Getty Images