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.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.