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Waterfront Festival

Rebecca Adlington Prepares for Notts Triathlon

1 June 19 photos: Accenture World Triathlon
interview: Gemma Fenyn

Following on from last year's success, the Accenture World Triathlon returns to Nottingham Saturday June 15th. On a choppy winters day a few months back, we caught up with participant and double Olympic swimming champion, Rebecca Adlington and Commonwealth Champion Triathlete, Jodie Stimpson, to get the low-down on this iconic event.  


Rebecca, in 2018 you competed in the sprint distance relay and this year you’re doing the full triathlon, where participants are being given the opportunity to take part in your ‘wave’, can you tell us a bit more about this?

RA: The competition begins in waves and fifty people have been given the opportunity to enter my wave. It’s going to be great as we’ll have the opportunity to chat and get to know each other before the race starts and then we’ll compete together in the Sprint Distance Triathlon where we can encourage and support each other during the race.  

In June 2010 you said that you’d never do a triathlon; what’s changed?

RA: I’ve never done a full triathlon before, but last year I swam 750 meters in the mixed relay and really enjoyed it! I think I really missed having a goal and it’s been good to mix up my fitness, although I’d never do it at a competitive level.

Honestly, it was the thought of the bike that terrified me. The roads can be dangerous in the winter months which can make it difficult to train. I haven’t even bought a bike yet! I feel like I really need to do my research on that one. I’m going to be having a read of Chris Hoy’s guide as well so I can be sure that I’m making the right choice.

You retired six years ago, how did you transition from the competitive side of things? How did you refocus your energy?

RA: It took me a very long time to adapt to the change of pace; mostly I struggled with my diet and then of course I had a baby which impacts on your body. I found that my weight yo-yoed quite a bit before I found a balance. The key was to try and enjoy myself. I had stopped concentrating on my fitness; I got back into it and naturally found my own groove.

I’ve found that my goals have changed - teaching kids to swim is completely different to competing. I’ve had no major regrets about retiring, I’ve maybe felt a bit of loss but I’ve known athletes who have struggled with it and I didn’t seem to.     

How are you preparing for the event?

RA: Well training is much harder during the winter months. I tend to stay indoors where it’s warm and I usually swim more. As I’ve said, I’m yet to buy a bike but I’ll probably get one of those attachments so that I can ride it indoors and get a feel for things.

At the moment I walk the dogs every day, do CrossFit and work with a P.T. I’ll probably start to increase my training around March a few months before the event and my trainer will tailor the sessions a bit more.

After retirement, you set up Becky Adlington’s Swim Stars, a program that teaches kids to swim. With reports suggesting that 1 in 3 kids aged 6-10 can’t swim; could we be doing more?

RA: Lots of pools are closing and I feel that this is having a knock on effect on young people's swimming ability. Also, there are only around forty 50m pools in the country, which impacts on swimming at a competitive level. I personally feel that swimming is a life skill that should be on the curriculum and assessed as part of Ofsted, although I appreciate that this could be difficult to achieve, for example, in some rural areas; still, it needs to be taken seriously from a school perspective. We also need to be more open minded and have these discussions, talk to the local facilities and get them to speak up, people don’t always know where to go or how to find them.

And Finally, ‘Double Gold Medalist’, do you ever get tired of hearing that?

RA: Never!

Jodie, you competed at the event last year, how did you find it?

JS: It was brilliant getting a chance to race on home soil again. The supporters are really what makes an event like this and I don’t care what anyone says - we have the best fans; it’s always amazing no matter where you are but on home soil it’s x10!

The Brits are featuring heavily in the current women’s rankings; what makes us so good?

JS: We’ve got so many good swimmers, last year me, Non (Stanford) and Helen (Jenkins) were at the top. Us and America are fighting for it! It’s kind of special when you’re fighting for the podium and the competitors around you are GB.

In 2017 you were set back by an achilles problem, how do you overcome that psychologically and keep pushing on?  

JS: In 2016 I didn’t make the Olympic team due to injury, that was really tough and it led to further smaller injuries, I had to completely rebuild. I’m thirty next year so I’ve had a good stint, but my mind wants to do more than my body can. It’s the thought of the podium that drives you; the pride that you feel for yourself and the pride your family has for you - it’s hard to put that feeling into real words.

You are a UK Sport Lottery-Funded athlete; how does the funding impact on your career?

JS: Being funded by UK sport, to put it bluntly, allows me to be the best I can be. In the past I’d worry about if and how I was going to get to an event. Now I can focus on just getting to an event to qualify so it’s made a huge difference. I still have to earn a living but it puts me in a far better position.

What advice would you give to people who are considering taking part in a triathlon?

JS: Everyone I talk to, I tell them ‘you’ve just got to go for it, you won’t regret it!’ It’s addictive. We’re a very welcoming crowd who all share a little bit of craziness!

Spectator tickets for the Accenture World Triathlon, June 15 2019 are still available. 

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