Aaron Royle: Background, career highlights, quotes

After a 15-year career in short-course racing, Aussie Aaron Royle has now made the full-time move into middle-distance… and it's paying dividends. Here's how he got there…

Aaron Royle of Australia celebrates second place the men's of IRONMAN 70.3 Portugal Cascais on October 24, 2021 in Cascais, Portugal.

A former U23 world champion with a strong short-course pedigree and plenty of success in mixed relay racing, UK-based Australian Aaron Royle is now making a hefty splash in the middle-distance world.

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Who is Aaron Royle?

Having exclusively raced in Australia and New Zealand until he made his European debut in 2010, Aaron Royle announced himself on the global triathlon scene in 2012 when he became the U23 world champion in Auckland.

Hailing from Newcastle in New South Wales, by then he was competing in the ITU World Triathlon Series. Over the next few years, established himself as a consistently high-finishing member of the WTS circuit, recording podium places in Auckland, Stockholm and Leeds. However, that first WTS victory remained elusive.

Royle enjoyed much greater success in mixed relay, establishing himself as a cornerstone of a high-ranking Australian quartet that were no strangers to podiums.

With the squad, Royle pocketed two world championships silvers and a single world bronze, along with another bronze in the Commonwealth Games.

After disappointing performances in both the Rio and Tokyo Olympics, along with his declining record on the ITU circuit, Royle adjusted his focus and discovered he could have much more impact in middle-distance racing.

Victories at Ironman 70.3 races and Challenge events – along with an excellent third at the PTO Canadian Open this season, which opened the door to participation in the Collins Cup – have put him back in the sport’s vanguard.

Now based in Leeds, he is due to marry his fiancée, fellow former world champion Non Stanford, this autumn, so watch out for any possible Royle/Stanford offspring dominating the world of triathlon in two or three decades’ time.

How old is Aaron Royle?

Aaron Royle was born on 26 January 1990, making him 32 years of age.

Aaron Royle’s career highlights

Aaron Royle leads Ognjen Stojanovic of Serbia during the 2009 Australian Youth Olympic Festival. (Credit: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

March 2011: Royle makes his bow on a major podium

Royle registers his first major podium finish as an elite when he finishes second at the OTU Triathlon Ocean Championships in Wellington, New Zealand. He is just six seconds away from the gold won by seasoned Kiwi Kris Gemmell.

February 2012: A first career victory as an elite

On New Zealand’s North Island, Royle takes his maiden victory, winning the Kinloch OTU Triathlon Oceania Championships, holding off a field that contains the likes of the talented Slovakian Richard Varga and the mighty Aussie Chris McCormack.

October 2012: Royle is on top of the world

More success in New Zealand. This time, the man from New South Wales does the business when it really matters, becoming the U23 world champion in the tightest of finishes with just four seconds separating the three medallists.

The winner of the women’s U23 crown, Non Stanford, will become Royle’s partner in a few years’ time.

April 2013: Maiden WTS top-10 performance

Having made his ITU debut the previous spring, Royle returns to Auckland to record his first World Triathlon Series top-10 finish, coming home sixth and missing out on a top-five berth by just four seconds.

April 2014: First appearance on a WTS podium

L-R: Jonathan Brownlee, Javier Gomez and Aaron Royle on the podium of the 2014 ITU World Triathlon Auckland men’s race. (Credit: Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Auckland continues to be a happy hunting-ground for Royle. This time it’s the crucible for his debut on a WTS podium, with only reigning world champ Javier Gomez and former world champ Jonny Brownlee finishing ahead of the Aussie.

July 2014: A Commonwealth medal to add to the collection

(L-R) Mixed team relay bronze medallists Emma Moffatt, Aaron Royle, Emma Jackson and Ryan Bailie of Australia at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. (Credit: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

A bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow comes Royle’s way as part of a very strong Australian mixed relay quartet alongside Emma Moffatt, Emma Jackson and Ryan Baillie.

July 2015: Relay quartet upgrade to silver

At the world championships in Hamburg, Australia’s mixed relay foursome – with Gillian Backhouse having replaced Moffatt – go one better than in Glasgow 12 months earlier.

August 2016: Royle becomes an Olympian

Jonathan Brownlee, Ben Kanute and Aaron Royle competing at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. (Credit: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

By now, Royle is an established fixture of the WTS circuit, with several top-five finishes to his name. He travels to Rio with hopes of snatching a medal of some colour, but has to make do with ninth place, nearly two minutes down on the gold- and silver-winning Brownlee brothers.

Royle is, though, the highest-placed Australian, pipping 10th-placed Baillie.

July 2018: A first and last ITU victory

Having won a second mixed relay world champs silver in Hamburg two weeks earlier, Royle is part of the Aussie squad that wins the mixed relay series event in Edmonton. It remains Royle’s only win in ITU racing.

A third mixed relay world champ medal (this time bronze) arrives the following July.

November 2018: A homeland hat-trick

In Queensland, Royle wins the prestigious Noosa Triathlon for a third time, holding off the challenges of compatriots Max Neumann and Ryan Baillie.

September 2020: Instant middle-distance success

In only his second attempt at half-Iron racing, Royle wins the Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast with nearly a minute to spare. A new chapter of his triathlon career begins to reveal itself.

July 2021: A second Olympic adventure

Aaron Royle on the final leg of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. (Credit: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Having shown little form in the few races that a pandemic-affected calendar has allowed, Royle is the third Aussie home at the delayed Tokyo Olympics, finishing behind Jacob Birtwhistle and Matt Hauser in 26th place.

He’s in good company, though; five-time world champ Gomez is just one place in front of him.

October 2021: Further longer-course success

Aaron Royle on his way to second place at the 2021 Ironman 70.3 Portugal Cascais. (Credit: Octavio Passos/Getty Images for Ironman)

Now competing in both WTS races and half-Iron competition, Royle comes second at Ironman 70.3 Portugal, beaten only by the Danish sensation Magnus Ditlev.

March 2022: Bags the big bucks at the Couples Championship

At the first-ever invite-only Couples Championship in Florida, Aaron Royle and fiancée Stanford put their teamwork to the test… and it more than pays off, as they collect the $100k winners’ cheque.

July 2022: An invite to the top table of middle-distance racing

L-R: Kristian Blummenfelt, Gustav Iden and Aaron Royle celebrate on the podium at the 2022 PTO Canadian Open. (Credit: Darren Wheeler/PTO)

After winning Challenge Wales the previous month, Royle scores a highly impressive bronze at the inaugural PTO Canadian Open where the formidable Norwegian pair, Gustav Iden and Kristian Blummenfelt, take gold and silver.

Royle’s podium place qualifies him for a berth in the Collins Cup the following month, where he finishes in the top half of the A-list field.

October 2022: Top 10 at the 70.3 Worlds

Royle finishes in a superb ninth place at his 70.3 Worlds debut with a time of 3:41:33.

Aaron Royle in quotes

On his disappointing ninth place at the Rio Olympics in 2016: “Part of me believed that I was capable of better. But I knew on that day that was all I had. There was nothing else I could have given. At the very least, I have to be proud of that effort.”

On winning Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast in only his second half-Iron event: “Obviously the longer race is pretty much double what I’m used to. I was pretty scared for most of that race. The whole time I was expecting myself to blow up.”

On choosing to stop dividing his time between short-course and long-course racing: “I felt that I wasn’t a good-enough athlete to try to do both. There are probably only a real select few who can successfully do both. I’m certainly not one of them.”

What’s next for Aaron Royle?

With his short-course performances undeniably on the decline, Royle has made the transition to middle-distance events at exactly the right time. Now 32, he’s breathed new life into his career, fully embracing the opportunities that both Ironman 70.3 and PTO races have to offer.

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Top image credit: Octavio Passos/Getty Images for Ironman