Posted on 13/08/2010 by Adrian Back
sportsvibe - Ironwoman Chrissie Wellington Looks to the Future

Over the last few years British sportswomen have been hitting the headlines with their fantastic achievements. We have witnessed Rebecca Adlington win two gold medals at the 2008 Olympics, Jessica Ennis win the World and European Championships and Victoria Pendleton claim Olympic and World titles.

Yet, few British athletes have managed to achieve as much as Chrissie Wellington. The 33-year-old triathlete only turned professional in 2007 when she decided to give up a successful career at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural affairs.

Ever since this moment Wellington has been winning competitions and breaking world records. Realising that she had a natural talent for endurance racing the Norfolk native turned her hand to ironman-distance triathlons. The distance varies but an average race will consist of a 2.4 mile open water swim, a 112 mile bike ride and a 26.4 mile run to finish.

So what is it that drives a person to push their body to such extreme limits? “When I first started it was because I liked the challenge,” explains Wellington. “I love the burn, the adrenaline rush and the fact I could push myself. I like the fact I can always strive for more and push the boundaries of what people expect.”

There is little doubt that Wellington had an extraordinary natural talent for endurance racing as in her first year as a professional she won the coveted World Championship in Hawaii. A result that was described as ‘one of the biggest shocks in the sport’s history’.

Since this first victory Wellington has continued to steadily improve and beat her own records. She won the World Championship again in 2008 and in 2009 not only took the title but also broke the course record that had stood for 17 years.

However, it is in Roth, Germany that Wellington’s achievements really started to make headlines. In 2009 she broke the world record by a staggering 12 minutes and then just a month ago she once again smashed her own record, again by an amazing 12 minutes.

“To break the world record again and by such a huge margin was absolutely amazing, I am still lost for words. I can’t believe I managed to run 2h:48m off the bike. I am so proud of what I achieved. It is very rare that you get that perfect day when everything falls into place, but I felt so strong in all three disciplines.”

To put this achievement into perspective, imagine trying to run a marathon in under three hours after swimming more than two miles and cycling over a hundred miles. The result also sent shockwaves throughout the triathlon world as Wellington reduced the gap between the top male and herself to just over twenty minutes.

“A few years ago we where an hour behind the men, now we have reduced the gap to around twenty minutes. We are even beating a lot of the professional men and that is fantastic. It’s a great time for women in sport. It is all about raising the bar and it is great to show women that anything is possible.”

Wellington is consistently getting closer to her male counterparts and shows no signs of relenting her dominance. Training seven days a week, six hours a day, it is not just about physical strength but also mental. The highs and lows experienced during a race that lasts over eight hours would test any individual, no matter how well trained you are. So how does Wellington cope?

“I have to train my mind to overcome the physical hurdles that I will in no doubt encounter. I use a lot of visualisation as you need positive images to draw on during the race. I have nearly always run the race in my mind before I even line up at the start.”

Next up for Wellington is the World Championships in Hawaii. Having won the race on the last three occasions and set a new course record on her last visit expectations are high. Yet, at her training camp in Canada, nothing seems to faze the 2009 Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year.

“There are so many added pressures, both that I put on myself and that others have for me. The weight of expectation can be a huge burden if you let it. Thankfully I have a superb team around me and as I have matured as an athlete I have learned to listen to my body.

“Sometimes I have to sit back and look at what I have already achieved. I am a three-time world champion and I have broken multiple world records. This is all in the space of three or four years. If you are not careful you get caught up looking to the future and you don’t have time to appreciate what has happened in the past.”

Surely there cannot be anything left to achieve for this phenomenal athlete. Another World Championship title is definitely on the cards, but what else lies in store for Wellington, who this year was awarded an MBE.

“First I want to continue to enjoy what I do, when I don’t enjoy it anymore I will retire,” explains Wellington. “What is important is using the platform I have developed through my success. I would love to set up my own foundation focused on getting kids into sport.

“I also want to take part in some bonkers endurance challenges such as cycling across continents. I would like a raw adventure where I can get back to basics. To be able to combine sport with travel and beautiful scenery would be amazing.”

It is clear that although Wellington came late into the world of sport she will more than make up for it. You can expect to hear the name Chrissie Wellington a lot more in the future.