Just before jetting off to compete in the Youth Olympics in Sydney, Australia, I caught up with GB Triathlete Sophie Coldwell…
Aged eight, most mere mortals are content with a kickabout in the park or maybe third in the obstacle race at a school sports day.
Sophie Coldwell is no mere mortal.
Her mum saw an advert for a triathlon in the paper and she decided to enter, presumably judging that she could run a bit, had a bike and hadn’t drowned yet.
She won it.
Here began the triathlon journey for one of the hottest prospects in British Triathlon.
“I couldn’t even swim 50 metres front crawl,” she told BBC Radio Kent.
“When you win a trophy at 8 years old, you think it’s the best thing ever. I just kept on doing it.”
And doing it in style.
The Gravesend born girl moved to Nottingham in 2000, joining the 4-Life Tri Club in South Notts.
A talented runner and swimmer, Coldwell competed in national junior swimming and cross country championships in their own right, on top of progress in the upper echelons of the tristar system.
In 2011, Coldwell’s potential was realised with inclusion into the British Triathlon Talent Squad, receiving direct training, funding and support from the expert team based at the world famous Loughborough University.
“I get top class physios, access to the pool, track, everything.
“When I first got onto the Olympic talent squad I was able to swim more in the mornings with the older guys like Lucy Hall.
“I’d fall asleep in the car home being so tired but now it’s routine.”
A member of Charnwood Athletics Club, based at the University’s world class Paula Radcliffe Stadium, and Leander Swimming Club, home to one R. Adlington no less, Coldwell’s path to the top is no surprise to many.
But whilst athletes at a senior level in the sport are able to focus fully on training and competition, the 18-year-old has to try and juggle three A-Levels in Biology, P.E and Psychology too.
“For GCSEs I didn’t miss too much school because there wasn’t that level of international competition,” she said.
“Last year and this year I missed and will miss a substantial amount of school.
“This year I’ve missed three weeks to go to New Zealand, a week to go to camp in Spain.
“I’m missing three weeks in January and exams to go to Australia.
She has to be if her dream of studying Human Biology at Loughborough is to be realised.
2012 was a year of extradordinary success for the Keyworth youngster.
Described as ‘the longest season ever,’ she finished 4th at the European Championships in Eliat in April, earning her a place at the World Championships later in the year.
“I wasn’t in a good way after that race,” she said. “I don’t remember the last 1500 metres of the run and I didn’t recognise the coach at the end.”
A succession of strong performances throughout the European season culminated in the global showcase in New Zealand in October.
It was a unique experience for Coldwell, frought with some unusual dangers
“It was such a different trip because we went out with the seniors,” said Coldwell
“Me and this other girl had to bake a cake for everyone. I thought I might poison Jonny Brownlee!”
In her biggest race to date, Coldwell finished a respectable 14th, but gave the true athletes response.
“It was a tough bike and lost some on the run but there’s lots of positives to take away.”
If Coldwell thought the World Championships were big, the Youth Olympics promise to deliver an altogether more mindblowing experience.
Following in the footsteps of Johnny Brownlee in 2009, Coldwell is part of a 2-woman triathlon team down under alongside Leeds’ Georgia Taylor-Brown.
Because not all countries are represented at the festival which starts on January 16, Coldwell is already targeting an improvement on Auckland.
“Top-10, top-8 would be a good race,” she boasted.
“As long as I get out of it what I want, I’ll be happy with that.
“Being in a different country, the travelling, the pre camp, the kit. Things like that you wouldn’t get on a normal race.
“Maybe one day, I’ll be able to use that experience in an Olympic games in the future.
And it’s either Madrid, Istanbul or Tokyo 2020 that could await one of the brightest young stars in British sport.
Inspire a generation? Coldwell found inspiration in attending the men’s triathlon in Hyde Park at London 2012. Now she could be the one doing the inspiring.
With a proven pedigree in past games through Eli Snowsill, Helen Jenkins and Michelle Dillon, Coldwell has all of the attributes to succeed in a sport currently experiencing the biggest boom in its history in the country.
Tuesday, 8th January 2013