ITU Hamburg: Interview with Elite Triathlete Sophie Coldwell

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16.07.15 at 11:31 am

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We had a huge number of Yellow Jersey customers heading out to Geneva last weekend for the ETU European Triathlon Championships, competing up to Age Group level competition. There is no need to tell us when you are travelling or racing, but it’s always nice to hear about what you are up to, and to see which events are drawing the most attention. Having become a partner with British Triathlon earlier this year, we have seen Triathlon become a significant part of our customer base, and as with road cycling, our policy is designed to suit the needs of professional racers just as much as amateurs.

After a large turnout in Geneva, we are also particularly excited to see one of our brand ambassadors, Sophie Coldwell, preparing to compete in her second ITU World Series Triathlon in Hamburg as an Elite Senior Triathlete this weekend. Around this time last year Sophie was able to finish first in her category at the Geneva European Cup, and after a fantastic performance at the ITU World Series in London, her first senior event, we are excited to see her continued progress. I was able to catch up with Sophie before she jumped on a plane to Germany for this weekend’s competition, to catch up on her feelings about London, Hamburg, and balancing university life with elite level Triathlon.

I began by asking about the ITU Triathlon in London at the end of May,

“It was my first with ITU. I’ve only ever done one world cup as a senior and one European cup, so everything else has been at a junior level, and to do my first ITU in London especially, was obviously a great opportunity. People say ‘the crowds are so loud and so overwhelming’, and it really was like that, the whole way round the run and especially through transition, [the crowd] was so loud. I’ve never experienced anything like that before, and even after, the amount [of support] I received on social media was just amazing. I had people stop me in the park on the way back to the hotels, just to say ‘good job’, it really was quite a special weekend. When we got back to the lockers, all the people at the pool were asking for pictures, which was quite weird, because when I was younger I’d been like that with other athletes.

The London race was six weeks ago now. I seeded the race actually; obviously I know that my running isn’t at the standard of the top women at the moment, but it was good to show that my bike and swim is, and hopefully over the next few years, as I obviously get a bit older and a bit stronger, then I’ll be able to run with the best of them as well. It was a really good opportunity to experience a higher class level of racing, at the front of it for the majority of the race.”

It was interesting to see how quickly Sophie mentioned her performance in the run, a little like she wanted to get that out of the way in case I asked about it. Having always come across as a level headed and sensible athlete, who knows her sport intimately, it wasn’t surprising. I asked a little about how her goals and expectations have changed as an athlete, her bio on the british triathlon website having been written while she was still at school,

“I suppose I’m just a bit more realistic now. Obviously when you’re younger it’s… you just want to do everything and you want it instantly, whereas now I realise that although I’m competing in world series events, there is a big difference in competing in them, and racing them how you want to race them, and dictating the race so you get the best result. I think now I’ve realised that wanting instant successes is all well and good, you want to be good now, but ultimately I want to have a career in triathlon that lasts 10, 15 years, so you have to look long term, and I think that’s why my coach is really good. We obviously do things now to have good results at London and Hamburg, the Worlds and Chicago and stuff like that. But equally we look at it and go, ‘in the long run, is this really the best thing to do?’ My goals are all pretty similar, I want to be competing at BTS and, obviously not Rio, but Tokyo and Commonwealth and things like that. Just making sure my training is looking at the long term.”

And asking if she had any expectations for Hamburg,

“I don’t ever say where I want to come in a race, just because sometimes you can have an amazing race and everything goes how you want it to go, and you can come tenth. Or you can have an absolute shocker of a race, and everything can go wrong, and you end up third. Sometimes it’s better to take the worse position and not have a really good race, but execute all the small things correctly. So I don’t have a place I want to come [in Hamburg], but similar to London, I want to commit to the front of the race, and put myself in the best position coming off the bike, just to give myself the best chance of getting my best overall result.”

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Identifying her run as a weakness, Sophie’s plan isn’t to hammer that discipline to be at the level she wants by the end of the season. With the support of Loughborough, Britain’s premier sporting university and its coaching staff, Sophie is looking to play the long game, building her run over time with the goal of competing among the best in the world over the next 10 to 15 years.

There is no doubt Sophie Coldwell has a strong foundation to work on, as quick as she was to mention her running, Sophie was also fairly modest in describing her run and swim. At the ITU London event, Sophie didn’t just swim well, she was third out of the water and went on to lead the bike for most of the race, ultimately finishing in 27th and gaining a ranking of 75th despite having only competed in one ITU event. While Sophie might not have finished among the top Women competitors, for large sections of the race she was showing them how it should be done, with all eyes on her through the swim and bike.

Sophie is currently studying Human Biology at Loughborough University. With my own time at university consisting largely of beer and late nights at the library, I was interested to find out a little about how she balances studying with training at an elite level.

“It’s alright actually, they’re quite good over at the Uni, and a lot of the stuff just goes up on the internet so if you don’t make lectures it’s quite easy to catch up on them. There’s a guy who basically sorts out all the exams and stuff if you can’t do them, if you’re away from the country and things like that. They are really active in helping you to do both; they don’t make you chose one or the other because they realise that a lot of people at Loughborough are into sport, and a lot are at quite a high level. I’ve actually split my next year so instead of graduating next year I’ll be going in two years time, just to lessen the workload, and give myself the best shot at doing well.”

“There’s six of us in total [in our student house], and we all do different sports. It’s really good actually, you get to learn a lot about how other sports work and how they train, and how they approach things, I really enjoy living where I live.

“We live with a couple of badminton players, and a couple of runners, so everyone goes and represents England or GB. They’re off to Slovenia one week and then Germany the next and France, so it’s like… We have a big planner to see where everyone is in the year because everyone’s flying out and racing or competing. It’s really good to be involved with that, and everyone just understands. When we were back in halls we obviously went out and stuff during Fresher’s, but after that everyone realised that we don’t do that. So in the house there’s never any arguments about people being noisy or loud music and stuff because at 9 o’clock, most people are heading off to bed, and we have to get up in the morning. Whereas I can imagine in some houses, you would say you were going to bed at 9 o’clock and they would say ‘that’s odd’. None of us stay out much past 9, half 9. It is really good and everyone understands what we are trying to do, and we help each other along.”

With the Brownlee Brothers absent from this weekend’s race in Hamburg, the media are focussing on the top British women Non Stanford, Vicky Holland and Jodie Stimpson as the competitors to watch out for. I suspect Sophie Coldwell is likely to be giving her more experienced contemporaries something to chase through the swim and bike.

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