April 22, 2016


Last athlete to beat Gwen and latest athlete to beat Gwen - Helen Jenkins

We asked Pro triathlete, Harry Wiltshire to put his eye on the World Triathlon Series race on the Gold Coast at the weekend, here is what he had to say...

In a long season there are events where athletes just turn up, tick the attendance box and don’t worry about the performance. For the British girls, round two of the World Triathlon Series was not one of those races. The Gold Coast event was the last major Olympic selection competition. Last time around I was caught up in the battle for Olympic slots and it is not a nice place to be. It is, however, the most incredible thing to watch and one of the reasons I love sport.

As a spectator, you witness the most important thing in someone’s life; the thing they have worked for over a career and the focus of every decision they make. It’s no artist’s impression or director’s reconstruction; the actual event is taking place. The spectator and the competitor know that for one person’s dream to come true, another must fail. Both athlete and spectator find out who wins and who loses at the same time.

Helen Jenkins went to her first World Championships in 2002. A decade later, she went to the London Olympics as race favourite. Earlier that year, she gave a master class at the San Diego World Series, swimming at the front of the field, riding in a small break and running 33.30 to win by over a minute.  Since then it has been a struggle. Helen picked up injuries and was unable to run for two months before the Games. She finished 5th in a race, that on her day, she might have won comfortably. It seemed to break her.

Helen didn’t race at all in 2013 and had injury issues in 2014 and 2015; a promising result would be followed by a mid pack finish or a DNF. Two other Brits, Stanford and Holland, met the Olympic selection criteria last year whilst Helen could not; they were selected for the team leaving only one slot.

Going into the Gold Coast race, the selectors had to see a performance that showed the ability to win an Olympic medal in order to select an athlete. Many felt Helen wasn’t what she once was, and that reigning Commonwealth Games Champion Jodie Stimpson, who had already won a World Cup and a World Series this year was the right person for the third slot.

Helen exited the swim near the front of the field and pushed on the bike from the start with former Huub athlete Flora Duffy and Andrea Hewitt. The three girls lined the field out and then rode away. Gwen Jorgensen, unbeaten in her last 17 races and the red hot favourite, found herself at the front of the chase. She could see the gap to the three girls, she knew that it was the big move and she couldn’t follow it.

The breakaway group kept pushing and started the run 90 seconds up on the field.  Usually Gwen would eat up that gap, but over the first 4 km she didn’t make any time on Helen. Over the remaining 6 km, Helen continued to look strong and whilst Flora and Andrea were passed in the final kilometre, Helen crossed the line with a comfortable 45 second gap.

The girl whose career was over 4 years ago showed that class doesn’t just disappear. She proved that the best athletes produce their biggest performances under the greatest pressure. When it really mattered Helen dominated the race. Who knows what will happen in Rio, but what Helen did this weekend was one of the most impressive things I have seen in sport.

I haven’t got so much to say about the boys this week. HUUB lads Varga and Schoeman swam at the front with Jonny Brownlee just behind making it a HUUB 1, 2, 3 out of the water. Bishop had a solid dig on the bike. Alistair Brownlee had a bad day; Jonny managed a 3rd place podium despite struggling with the heat and I think everyone is just relieved that he doesn’t appear to have done any serious damage. I’m expecting to have a better story to tell you after South Africa in two weeks’ time.

Harry Wiltshire

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