Wales will reap the rewards of an elite triathlon programme in Cardiff – and a sport very much on the up – by the time next year’s Commonwealth Games comes around.
That’s the firm conviction of Louis Richards, Welsh Triathlon’s head of performance, who believes a feelgood factor after the Tokyo Olympics can inspire a new generation to follow in the footsteps of Non Stanford and Helen Jenkins.
Great Britain won gold in the mixed relay event in Japan in July, plus individual silvers in the men’s and women’s events for Alex Yee and Georgia Taylor-Brown.
All three titles will be up for grabs at Birmingham 2022, the first time a full four-year cycle will have been in place for the National Triathlon Performance Centre Wales – a partnership between Welsh Triathlon, Cardiff University and Cardiff Met aimed at producing elite performers.
“When I started in Wales four years ago, there was a bit of a focus here for the athletes to try and be the best in Wales, rather than the best in the world,” says Richards, who has also worked with British Triathlon.
“Wales is a small country and if you set your sights only within Wales, then you won’t reach world standards.
“You have to be clear on what the standards are going to be, but you also have to give the athletes the time to get there. It’s a sport where long term development pays off and people take a few years to really reach their peak.”
There are currently 16 triathletes – 11 male and five female – based at the performance centre, using the facilities of Cardiff Met.
They can boast two full-time coaches and are in the process of recruiting a third, backed by sports science practitioners based at the university.
The centre is now officially recognised as a pathway centre by British Triathlon, giving Welsh triathletes the option to base themselves in Wales, rather than move to England.
“It’s been a pretty rapid expansion, but we are now at the point where we are set up for the next four to eight years to support athletes coming through,” says Richards.
“Before, when athletes hit 18 years old and they wanted to train in an elite performance centre, they would have to go to England to do that. Now, we have an environment for Welsh athletes if they wish to stay in Wales.
“I think we have just scratched the surface of our relationship with Cardiff Met. It’s not just facilities but before Covid, we were providing leaning experiences for eight to 10 of their students – the performance staff of the future.”