NOWRA-born triathlete Jonathan Goerlach is one step closer to achieving his long-term dream of qualifying for the Paralympic Games after a string of strong results abroad.
With less than 12 months to go until the Tokyo 2020 Games, Goerlach, 36, and his guide Sam Douglas showed why they are primed for their best year yet, by claiming bronze at the Olympic test event at Japan.
"Although the event ended up being a duathlon - run, bike, run - because of the poor water quality, Sam and I got a lot out of the event," Goerlach said.
"As it was 35 degrees, with 80 per cent humidity, it was great getting to experience the conditions we will have to deal with on the same course at Tokyo next year if we qualify."
Despite all this, Goerlach claimed third in test event - which doubled as the 2019 Tokyo ITU Paratriathlon World Cup - in a time of 58:53.
"Sam and I were both very happy with the result but more importantly how close we were to the athletes who finished ahead of us, which shows we are constantly improving," Goerlach said.
"Especially as we were only a little more than a minute (57:01) of the winning Great Britain pair and six seconds behind the second-placed United States duo."
Following this result, the pair flew to Europe to set up a training base at Divonne-les-Bains - a town on the border of France and Switzerland.
"It was great to be in that training environment with so many other athletes from the Aussie team, including juniors, under 23s, able-bodied and para team members," Goerlach said.
"In the Montreal race in June, we only had three days to recover from the long-haul travel but this time we had an extended time to get over jet-lag, acclimatise ourselves to the conditions, including lots of hill training.
"I was in the best environment to prepare for the upcoming world championships."
This camp was tailored to the former Bomaderry High School student getting as many ranking points from the 2019 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final Lausanne as possible.
"As we head towards the Paralympics, I need to get three strong results under my belt, especially as the Tokyo event wasn't worth as many points with it changing to a duathlon," he said.
This is why Goerlach is stoked with his seventh-placed finished at Laussaune (750m swim, 20.3km bike and 5km run) - finishing with a time of 1:08:03, just three seconds behind sixth and 20 seconds behind fifth.
"We came out of the water in a strong position after one of our best swim legs all season - which is notoriously my weakest leg," he said.
"Then on the bike, I think I underestimated how hard it was going to be with the hills - I literally vomited midway through the second lap.
"It really took its toll on me and I didn't come good until the third and final lap - seeing us enter the run leg in 11th, which is expected with the interval start system where the completely blind/B1 athletes start three minutes and 21 seconds ahead.
"My run leg is always my strongest, so we set out trying to chase as many competitors as we could."
Goerlach was right, he and Douglas had the second quickest run leg split (16:59), seeing them move all the way up to seventh.
"We swallowed up a number of athletes and would have got more if we had an extra 200 metres of road left," he said.
"The key was pacing myself on the run and not going out too hard, which I learnt the hard way earlier on in the season."
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Although Goerlach was aiming for top-five, he'll take seventh.
"We knew the race was going to be tough, as a number of strong pairings had entered into our category over the past 12 months - the depth in this category (PTVI men) is as deep as I've ever seen it in eight years of racing at this level," he said.
"At the end of the day, we couldn't have raced any better - we executed our plan as well as we could."
While this result sets up Goerlach and Douglas nicely, the former knows there's still plenty of room for improvement.
"It's all about a long term plan for us, as we know we aren't too far off knocking off those top guys (finishing three minutes behind winner Héctor Catala Laparra at Laussane)."
The pair have now arrived home and have just wrapped up a small break before ramping up training in Wollongong.
This structured training will see Goerlach focus the Oceania Championships event on Australia Day at Newcastle before heading to Tasmania for the 2020 Devonport ITU World Paratriathlon Series.
"The Devonport race is the next highest level type of race outside of a world championships," he said.
"It's a big race worth big points - if I perform the way I know I can, it'll go a long way to securing my spot on the Paralympic team.
"It'll also mean I won't have to chase points in the final months of the qualification window and allow me to continue training in my home environment."