One of Britain’s leading female athletes is reportedly considering switching from triathlon to cycling as she targets Olympic success at London 2012.
Chrissie Wellington, winner of the Ironman World Championships for the past three years, is considering focusing on the individual time trial in her quest for a gold medal, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph.
Triathlon has been featured in the Olympics since the Sydney games in 2000. But the Olympic distance – a 1.5km swim, 40km bike ride and 10km run – is much shorter than the one used in the annual Ironman event in Hawaii, where competitors undertake a 3.9km swim, a 185km bike ride, and a 42.195 km run. Yes, that’s a full marathon in the third leg.
As a result, the Olympic course is ill-suited to Wellington’s talents, with the run not long enough and the fact that slipstreaming is allowed in the cycling, considered her strongest discipline, likely to prove more of an advantage to her competitors than to the British athlete.
Wellington’s victory in the Ironman World Championship won her the United States Sports Academy’s female athlete of the month award for October, and she has also been shortlisted for this year’s BBC Sports Personality of The Year.
In winning the event for the third consecutive year, she broke the course record that had stood for 17 years, and came in a full 20 minutes ahead of her closest rival. And her time of 8:54:02 was only 35 minutes behind the men’s winner, Australia’s Craig Alexander, and was beaten by only 21 male competitors.
Her ability on two wheels is demonstrated by the fact that she completed the 185km bike ride at an average speed of around 39km an hour. That’s not much behind the 40.5km an hour set by US rider Karen Armstrong in winning the individual time trial at the Beijing Olympics last year on a much shorter 24.5km course.
Talking of her potential switch to the individual time trial, Wellington told the newspaper: “I love a challenge and I never want to miss out on an opportunity to perform on the world sporting stage. I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to explore any opportunity that came my way."
She continued: "I'm under no illusions that it would be incredibly difficult to switch over and there are no cast-iron guarantees, but that was the case when I gave up my job to focus on triathlon."
Of course, athletes switching to cycling from other events in their quest for Olympic glory is not without precedent. Rebecca Romero, silver medalist at Athens in 2004 as part of the women’s quad in rowing, won gold on the track at Beijing, attracted to the sport both by the potential it gave her to pursue an individual event and the professionalism of the British Cycling set up.
With Team GB limited to three riders in the individual time trial in London, however, Wellington is likely to face stiff competition to secure a place.
Emma Pooley, second behind Armstrong in Beijing, will be looking to go for gold in London, while Romero, unhappy with proposed changes to the track cycling programme that are likely to mean that she will be unable to defend her individual pursuit title, is also said to be considering a move to road to ride in the individual time trial.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.