UP TO SPEED
As the months of speculation finally end, we reveal who is off to Rio and how confident they feel about bringing back a medal…
We take a look at all the news and moves in the triathlon world.
AFTER MONTHS of speculation and wonder, the day of reckoning finally dawned.
Outside Leeds Civic Hall, the most famous faces in triathlon gazed down on us from giant posters.
Inside the opulent building, six empty stools had been arranged before a dramatic backdrop of Copacabana Beach.
In a few moments they’d be filled with our Olympic hopefuls. But, with all eyes focused on the sixth seat, there was just one question on everyone’s lips.
Who had made the final slot on the men’s team? Would it be Gordon Benson or Tom Bishop hopefully steering the Brownlee brothers to glory on the Brazilian podium?
One by one, each athlete was introduced – and came forward to receive their formal selection notice from the British Olympic Association to join Team GB in Brazil.
There were no surprises from the girls. Non Stanford was followed by housemate and good friend Vicky Holland – who both earned their places on podiums at the Rio test event and the World Series grand final.
Then came Helen Jenkins… the only athlete to have beaten Gwen Jorgensen in the last 12 months, earning a ticket to her third Olympics with a dramatic Gold Coast victory this spring.
Moving on to the men’s team, we had Jonathan – then Alistair – Brownlee.
“And, to complete the team…” announced John Levison from Tri247.com. Silence fell.
“He was European under-23 champion in 2014, went on to win a bronze medal at the world championships the same year… last year produced one of the best team performances I’ve ever seen in Baku.”
“The third member of the men’s GB triathlon team for Rio… Gordon Benson!”
The speculation was over. Gordon had clinched it.
But even he had been on tenterhooks, he revealed. After days of waiting for news, while completing his final university exams, an email had finally popped into his inbox at 5pm on a Friday afternoon.
“It was a big relief to get the email,” he said. “I felt like I ticked a box in Yokohama. I would have been disappointed not to have been picked… I’m really happy now.”
Afterwards he told us: “I rang my Mum. I’m pretty sure she cried.”
And his thoughts on Tom? “For us, it was always going to be one or the other. It was going to be a shame for the one who missed out. If Tom did well and he got the nod I’d be disappointed for myself but not for Tom. We’re going there to do the best role we can do. At the end of the day, from what happened in the races, British Triathlon selected me and I’m grateful for their belief in me. I wish Tom all the best. He’ll continue his training in Leeds and it’s good to have him around.”
So no hard feelings? “I don’t think so. We always knew what the deal was and we were both happy to take the risk. It does develop you well as an athlete to focus on your swim/bike. I said ‘if I’m unsuccessful, I’ll be a better swim/biker, get back to my running and probably be in peak running shape in six to eight weeks. I’ll just be a more rounded athlete – hopefully I’ll be swimming front pack in the race, stronger on the bike, and if I’m back in my top run shape, I’ll be able to deliver top races.
“It was a great opportunity for both of us to go for it. But sadly there was only one spot.”
Gordon, still just 22, hopes it’s just the first of many Olympics. “This time around it’s a great opportunity for me to go to experience the Olympics. From Tokyo we’ll see what happens.
“I’ll be 26. People say triathletes peak around 27/28. I’ll peak when I peak but I’d love to be there at Tokyo. For the one after that I’ll only be 30 and would love to be there.
“So, yeah, let’s hope this is the floodgates opening to Olympics after Olympics. I’d love to do it. But for now, it’s just shortterm… go to Rio and do the job.”
After unveiling the team Levison concluded: “So that’s our British Olympic Team – and what a very strong one it is.”
We couldn’t agree more. Team GB – we’ll be willing you on every stroke, pedal and step of the way.
Triathlon Plus and triradar.com will bring you full coverage of the Olympic races.
SOUNDBITES FROM TEAM GB
Non Stanford: “It’s taken me 17/ 18 years since I was nine-years-old and asked my mum if I’d ever go to the Olympic Games. A few sports later (gym, swim, run and finally triathlon) I’ve finally managed to do it. It will be pretty special to finally stand on that start line and represent Team GB at the Olympic Games.”
Vicky Holland: “The last two years have been really great for me. When I look ahead to Rio I have far loftier ambitions than 26th place [her finishing position in London 2012].”
Helen Jenkins: “I’m quite surprised to be here. It’s been a hard four years since 2012. A Lot of injuries... but I kept in mind that I wanted to go to Rio. I just managed to get the training in and pull off the result in the Gold Coast.”
Alistair Brownlee: “I am quite confident. A second gold medal would be fantastic – and would mean a lot more in some ways. But you just don’t know… you’ve just got to put your head down for the next two months and go as hard as you can.”
Jonathan Brownlee: “Rio will be very different to London… it’s a different course, as well, which is going to help. London was a course that didn’t necessarily suit us that much… a very fast run and fast bike. Rio is a lot tougher … so, yes, I am excited about it.”
The newly revealed Team GB