Sliding door moment leads to shot at gold

Elite sporting bodies in Australia have bemoaned losing some of their best athletes to AFL, but there are always exceptions to the trend.

Take Bunbury triathlete Ryan Bailie. Faced with a crunch decision as a teenager, he turned his back on football to pursue an individual sport.

The decision ultimately meant moving to his new base in Wollongong, 80km south of Sydney, and slogging it out over 60km in the pool each week to improve his weakest leg - the swim.

Six years later and all the hard work is paying off. Now 24, Bailie has risen as high as No.6 in the ITU world triathlon series standings this year and is one of only two Australians, alongside Aaron Royle, inside the top 12.

The rich form has him targeting a medal in the men's triathlon at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow's Strathclyde County Park starting at 10pm tonight, WA time.

"I always played AFL when I was growing up. But I also did quite a lot of cross-country running with school and then my parents were heavily involved in the triathlon club, so I gave it a go when I was quite young," he said.

"It came to a stage when it was sort of between that and football when I was about 16.

"I was quite slightly built, so it was time to start getting bigger and put on some muscle.

"Ultimately triathlon won out.

"At the end of the day I really enjoyed the individual aspect of triathlon. It was all just about yourself and what you put in you get out, whereas in team sport if guys are missing training it affects the whole team.

"In triathlon you're accountable for everything you do."

South Africa-born Bailie knows those who can't stick to the demanding travel schedule and fitness program do not last.

Younger sister Ashlee gave up on the sport last year despite being a junior silver medallist.

Bailie finished 17th overall in his first full ITU series in 2013.

A career-high fifth in Auckland this year has helped him climb to world No.11, with just four triathletes ranked higher who are eligible for the Commonwealth Games.

The West Australian will tackle an Olympic distance course consisting of a 1500m swim, 40km cycle and 10km run. He remains at the younger end for a sport where men typically peak in their late 20s to early 30s, but says he is in the hunt for Games glory.

"I'm ahead of where I thought I would have been," he said.

"But now that I'm here you want more and want to keep pushing yourself."

"It came to a stage when it was sort of between that and football when I was about 16." " Bunbury triathlete *Ryan Bailie *

The West Australian

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