NEWCASTLE'S Aaron Royle salvaged a positive finish from a frustrating 2020 campaign with a record-breaking sixth victory in the Nepean Triathlon on Sunday.
In inhospitable conditions, the 2016 Rio Olympian finished the full-course event in one hour, 26 minutes and eight seconds, ahead of twin brothers Luke (1:27:00) and Jayden Schofield (1:27:02), from Sydney.
Royle had previously won Nepean - Australia longest-running professional triathlon - five times: 2013-15, 2017 and 2018 - equalling the mark set by Tim Bentley in the 1990s.
His victory ensured he finished the season with a 100 per cent success rate, having also won last month's Sunshine Coast half-ironman event in Queensland.
After the cancellation of this year's international circuit and postponement of the Tokyo Olympics because of the coronavirus pandemic, 30-year-old Royle has spent countless hours training but competed only twice.
"Two [wins] from two is not too bad, and to be honest I'm just grateful that I was able to get any racing in at all," Royle told the Newcastle Herald.
"By the middle of the year, I'd pretty much written it off. I didn't think we'd have a chance to race.
"While I'd prefer to have had a normal season, it was good to get a couple of races in at least and hopefully things are looking up for next year."
Because of crowd restrictions, Sunday's race featured no prizemoney but Royle was more than happy to compete anyway, as a show of support for the organisers.
"When I first won it back in 2013, I'd have never thought I'd be able to win it six times," he said.
"So that was a bit more motivating to go out there, especially given the weather was quite poor. But most importantly, it was just nice to be racing again."
Royle is optimistic that normal service will resume in 2021. After an off-season break, he will be back in training under the assumption the world series will re-start in Abu Dhabi next March.
If and when they are able to compete again, Royle and a host of contenders will be hoping to win selection in the Australian team for Tokyo.
"I'm confident that next year we'll have a normal-ish season," he said.
"We're still planning to start in Abu Dhabi, as we do every year ...
"With regards to the Olympics, as long as there are [world series] races, we know what we need to do and what the criteria will be.
"It's about performing every time you get a chance to race. If for some reason it looks like we won't have a series next year, then it becomes tricky for the selectors."