In a little under four weeks, seven members of Belvoir Tri Club will be boarding a plane to compete in what promises to be the biggest race of their 2015 season – maybe even the biggest of their careers.
Claire Armstrong, Tom Cook, Neil Dowsett, Mike Goddard, Karl Hunt, Adam Jackson and Martin Jolly have all qualified for the Age Group World Championships in Chicago, USA, next month.
The club sent two members, Karl Hunt and Mike Goddard, to Edmonton, Canada, to compete in last year’s Worlds, and that was arguably the catalyst for other members to take on the challenge and state their intention to qualify for this year’s event, a race which coincides with the ITU World Championships Grand Final.
Every year, three qualification races take place around the country to decide the 20 members of each age group, both male and female, on the squad, which number more than 400 this year, aged from 17 to 79.
The top four from each age group in each race gain automatic qualification, colloquially referred to as a ‘Q’, allowing for the remaining places in each age group to roll down to the next best eight.
Claire, who qualified at Nottingham back in May with an excellent Q4, is in her first year with the GB squad. She said: “It took a while to really sink in. It’s a bit surreal to think that you’ll be racing the same course as the elite athletes and you’re in the team GB camp.
“I put the GB tri-suit on for the first time last week and I got it – the pride of representing my country and the significance of what I’ve achieved, I’m still smiling now.”
Born and bred in Grantham, Tom discovered triathlon whilst at university in Norwich. After seeing team-mates from his university triathlon club compete for Great Britain last year, he was inspired to earn his own GB colours.
Tom said: “Going to Chicago as part of a club as successful as Belvoir Tri Club is going to be great; there’s so much experience here. I can’t wait to get racing.”
Former Elite archer Neil was introduced to triathlon about 12 years ago and qualified with a rolldown Q at the Dambuster Standard distance event at Rutland Water in June. He said: “To finally get the opportunity to represent my town, club and country is a dream come true and I can’t wait. I just hope that the sprinters who race two days before me don’t celebrate too hard before my race is done.”
Mike, 66, is the club’s veteran of the GB scene, both in terms of physical age and also experience, but his ability often outshines athletes 20 years his junior.
He said: “I took up triathlon in 2010 having come from a running background, unable to swim and never having owned a road bike.”
Karl made certain of his qualification with a solid Q3 at Nottingham and said he is peaking just in time for Chicago: “I’m weeks away from the pinnacle of my season, the timing could not be any better.”
Adam first found triathlon in 2011 when he entered a sprint distance event with a group of friends “as a laugh”, and now he trains almost every day. He said: “Receiving an email from British Triathlon to say ‘congratulations on making the GB Age Group Team for the 2015 World Triathlon Championships’ was, I think, the best email I have ever received. I am very honoured to be able to represent my country in these championships and am very much looking forward to the race.”
Martin said that triathlon was the goal needed to help in his recovery from ME, and two years ago he completed an Ironman event.
He said that seeing Karl qualify for the Worlds last year made him realise that with hard work and dedication, he could do the same. He qualified with a rolldown at Nottingham.
Martin said: “I cannot wait to pull on the GBR tri-suit on the morning of the race.
“I think a large part of the success I’ve had this year comes from taking my tri-athlon coaching qualifications; you realise when you are coaching others that you sometimes don’t practise what you preach.”
As well as travelling to Chicago as athletes, Martin and Karl are part of the growing coaching team at the club.
Karl said: “Sending seven athletes to what is the biggest race of the amateur calendar could not be a better indication of the health of not only the sport in Grantham but also the club.”