Canberran Penny Slater heading to cross triathlon world championships in Canada

PENNY SLATER: Australian cross triathlon athlete Penny Slater. Photo: Jay Cronan.
PENNY SLATER: Australian cross triathlon athlete Penny Slater. Photo: Jay Cronan.

Penny Slater is rising through the cross triathlon ranks almost as quickly as the sport is growing in popularity.

Cross triathlon is the on road version of the sport transposed into a bushland setting with an open water swim (1km), mountain bike (30km) and trail run (10km).

Slater, a 20 year old student, won the Australian championships in her first crack at the elite level in Queensland in February and has qualified for the world championships in Canada in August.

"I like it because mountain biking is lots of fun and the locations are pretty amazing, competing through national parks is pretty great," Slater said.

"I was a road triathlete four years ago and then two years ago made the switch. I think it's also a lot tougher mentally, not that normal tri isn't tough, but you have to have a really strong mindset."

The former school captain at Queanbeyan High School has turned professional and is trying to secure sponsors with the Canberran set to spend up to two months on the road this year.

"Last year I was racing as an amateur but now I'm competing all around the world and racing for money," she said.

"The prize money varies from race to race, I'm going to New Zealand in April and there's about $5000 on offer for the winner there.

"This year I'll spend about eight weeks competing, but hopefully in years to come I can train in Europe in the summer."

Cross triathlon first emerged in 1996 in Hawaii and Slater confirmed the sport was growing rapidly as triathletes and outdoor enthusiasts join. "The race I did and then at nationals a few weeks ago there were over 400 people competing so people are definitely picking it up and making the switch," she said.

"It's all about competing at the highest level against great people and seeing the world, it's a dream job really."

Slater trains with the Canberra Bilbys Triathlon Club and works as a teacher's aid while studying exercise physiology and rehabilitation at the University of Canberra.

"It's a bit of a tight squeeze with my training but I make it work," Slater said.

Slater was awarded Queanbeyan’s Australia Day citizen of the year by the city’s council in 2014.