“Patience, Perseverance and Enjoyment”: British Triathlete Non Stanford
May 16, 2012
The Fresh Outlook
Welsh triathlete Non Stanford talks to The Fresh Outlook about being ranked 18th in the world and Britain’s Olympic chances.
In a significant year for UK sport, 2012 has already seen Non Stanford win 11th place at the ITU World Triathlon Series in Sydney, and 21st last weekend in San Diego. Fresh from her great performance in San Diego, she says: “Overall I was pleased, if you’d said to me last year that I’d finish 21st in a World Series event I’d have been delighted.”
Her women’s World Series Ranking has since leapt to 18th position, impressive when you consider that in 2010 she ranked 118th, and at 79th in 2011. Did she expect this? “Not at all!”
Currently based in Leeds but originally from Swansea, Stanford describes herself as a “loyal South Walian, temporary Yorkshire dweller”. She graduated in 2010 with a degree in Sport and Exercise Science from the University of Birmingham, which is where she unexpectedly began her triathlon training.
From her early teens, Stanford trained as a cross-country runner, but in 2008 after a series of injuries kept her from running, she began swimming with the university triathlon squad:
“I was picking up injuries all the time and struggling to keep running, which was really demoralising, so in the end I decided to do some swimming to keep fit.”
Everything changed when the university’s triathlon coach persuaded her to train with the team: “I loved the variety of the triathlon training and had a really positive experience with it. From there I didn’t look back. It’s an interesting sport, it’s different, and it’s really challenging, and people really appreciate that.”
After winning 2nd place in the 2009 British Triathlon Super Series, she received the Paul Weston Triathlon Scholarship, allowing her to concentrate on competing professionally as a triathlete. The following year, while also completing her degree, she won bronze at the Premium European Cup in Brasschaat, 10th place in the prestigious French Club Championship, and 5th at the Triathlon de Paris. Since 2011, she has taken top-ten positions at the ITU Triathlon World Cups in both Ishigati and Antalya.
Basking in the current success of the British Triathlon Squad, which also includes brothers Jonathan and Alistair Brownlee, Stanford describes how triathlon is definitely a sport which is gaining momentum in the UK: “Up until four or five years ago I didn’t know what a triathlon was either, and with so many British athletes doing so well it’s definitely raised the profile. It’s a challenge for the masses too, as so many people are now running a 10k and marathons, triathlon is something new and it’s a shinier model.”
Stanford now forms part of the British Triathlon Federation’s World Class Development Squad. As well as 18th in the world, she is also the third highest ranked British female triathete, after World Champion Helen Jenkins and Vicky Holland. Sport can often be fiercely competitive, but Stanford describes how the British squad support each other: “You’re not fighting each other, we’re there to help each other and everyone gets on really well. I think that’s key for Helen [Jenkins] going into the Olympics knowing that she has the backup and the support of the whole team.”
As two high profile Welsh athletes, Stanford and Jenkins have helped to boost Wales’ sporting accomplishments. President of Welsh Triathlon, Dr Dean Hardie, told The Fresh Outlook: “It has been a tremendous start in the Olympic year for Welsh Triathlon, with stunning performances from Non Stanford and Helen Jenkins in the ITU World Triathlon Series. [In San Diego] Non had a solid race finishing 21st in a very strong field, while Helen took 1st place. Helen has already been selected for the Olympic team but there are still two places up for grabs. The final Olympic selection race for Team GB is in Madrid on 26th May where another good performance from Non could see her dreams come true.”
In the run-up to London 2012, Britain’s triathlon chances are looking spectacularly good, and Stanford sees this as a way for the sport to grab more public interest: “With people like Helen [Jenkins] doing so well, [Britain] has three very realistic gold medal chances, not just medal chances, so I think public interest will just keep growing over the next few years. It would be great to get triathlon on the main TV channels!”
What do the next few years hold for Non Stanford? “My main aim is the World Series now, to keep putting in good performances there, as well as the Under 23s World Triathlon in Auckland in October. It’s every athletes dream to go to the Olympics to represent their country. The Olympic Games is very special and to go [there] would be like a dream come true for me. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, so I’ll definitely keep training towards that in the next few years.”
Within four years, Stanford’s progress has taken her to the elite races amongst the best in the world, so what advice would she give to budding young sportspeople who hope to follow her example and become professional?
“Patience, perseverance and enjoyment! Find a sport that you really enjoy; it’s your job and you do it full-time, training 30 hours a week, so you really have to enjoy it.
“Also, don’t worry about being number one when you’re younger, it doesn’t matter, just train and learn and enjoy it. As long as you stick at it and have patience and persevere, especially through the hard times, it’ll all be worth it in the end.”
By Jo Powell
[Image courtesy of Dr Dean Hardie, Welsh Triathlon]