Quick words with: Sophie Coldwell

Sophie Coldwell, the young and rising star who was placed 5th on our Super League Championship Series leaderboard last season, looks ahead to a jammed packed schedule as the WTS season officially starts. Sitting down with our writer earlier, she shared her thoughts on all things triathlon and what she thinks about racing with Super League.

Thinking about the sport as a whole – where do you see the future of triathlon? With consumption of sport getting more and more on demand do you think we’ll see an explosion of the shorter distance bang-for-your-buck style racing?

“I personally don’t think we will ever move away from the Olympic and Sprint distance racing, it’s the bread and butter of ITU. There is, however, the inclusion of the mixed relay in Tokyo and consequently, we will see a lot more relays being added to WTS events this year as nations try to qualify for the Olympics. They are obviously a very exciting race to watch and athletes love to race them too.

There is also the emerging Super League series, I say emerging but it pretty much exploded onto the scene and really grabbed the attention of the triathlon community – there will definitely be more of these events around!“

So that questions clearly leads into talking about the new Super League Series. How did you find the event in Jersey last year? What did you think of the format and are there any clear improvements/changes you’re hoping for when the series launches proper?

“I LOVED IT! It really showed who had the broad range of skills needed to be a top triathlete but which sometimes you can get away without having in an Olympic event, everything was tested – swim speed, transitions, technical riding ability, top end power out of corners, knowledge of other competitors, ability to recover and ability to race smart. I really couldn’t fault the event last year, the organisation was incredible, the athletes were looked after so well and the whole weekend was a real showcase of the sport I love.”

Again thinking of the sport as a whole what do you think of what the Super League team are trying to achieve? Is there a hunger for more events like this amongst the pro athletes?

“Super League are trying to bring a new dynamic side to triathlon which hasn’t been around before, the different race formats on challenging courses make the event super exciting, not just for the athletes but spectators as well. It’s events like this that will really inspire people to support and then participate themselves. I definitely think there is a need for different events; the only issue for most athletes is how they fit and enhance ITU racing as ultimately we all want to make an Olympic Games”

What was your stand out moment from the Super League Jersey race?

“For me personally my stand out moment was racing with friend, teammate and training partner, Jodie Stimpson. We hadn’t raced together all year so to finally be able to race together cohesively was great and to finish one of the rounds and cross the line together with all the British support was just incredible”

Do you think you see Super League as the future of sprint distance racing or as a part of a changing landscape?

“I think for me, I see it as an addition to the race calendar rather than becoming the new ‘sprint distance’. People want to see the Super League style of racing and equally the athletes want to race it however with major championships like the Commonwealth Games racing over the sprint distance I’m not sure that the Super League style of racing will replace it”

What are your thoughts regarding gender equality in triathlon – where does the sport do well and where does it fall down? That in mind what are the thoughts on the MOU signed between SLT and ITU?

“Gender equality in sport is a very important subject and one I feel very strongly about. On the surface and as a whole, I would say triathlon has more equality than inequality. ITU events have the same amount of prize money and a number of starts for both sexes and WTS events get the same amount of TV coverage. I think the reduced interest in women’s racing over the last couple of years has mainly been due to the style of racing. In the ‘Gwensanity’ era, not much would happen on the swim/bike and then Gwen would run through the field to take the tape, some would see her impressive record of 12 straight WTS wins as predictable… Now, however, the racing has become much more exciting with Flora Duffy, Jess Learmonth and Katie Zaferes pushing the pace on swim/bike and creating breakaways. I personally feel the biggest gender inequality comes from sponsors and social media. Jess had an outstanding year in 2017, picking up her 1st WTS medal and also finishing up on the podium in the Grand Final in Rotterdam. In my opinion, I feel she didn’t receive the media coverage she deserved for her performances and yet male athletes who didn’t perform to the same standard seemed to receive more. It’s great that going forward Super League has included women in the series after the inaugural event only included men and that there is also an equal prize purse.The MOU signed between Super League and the ITU is a great partnership and as they are working hard together to promote gender equality as well as other important issues in a sport such as anti-doping and youth engagement which will be great for the sport”

So – what about you and your future. You’re part of a generation of athletes coming into the sport as triathletes rather than swim, bike or runners – where do you see yourself going in the sport? Do you have any long-term dreams/goals?

“Haha yes I am, I have been doing the sport since I was 8, so 15 years now! I obviously (like most athletes I imagine), would love to be an Olympian but come from such a strong nation with such depth and talent it may or may not happen and I am realistic about that. I would love to have a career which I can race at the top level and pick up some WTS podiums along the way, but ultimately I need to continue to love the sport I train for every day and if, for whatever reason, I lose that then I know it’s time to move on. I do know, however, that I shall never ever sign up for an Ironman! My boredom threshold is too low to cope with a 10+ hour race and to be honest, I think I would be absolutely terrible at it anyway!”

Sophie Coldwell is an example of the sport being in good health and strong hands as a new generation of triathletes come through who have been triathlon specific since they first started training. With new races and different formats emerging who knows where the next few years will lead athletes like Sophie and what opportunities triathlon will offer up.

This year’s inaugural full Super League series beginning in Jersey in September will carry the athletes from 2018 into 2019, truly testing their ability to race hard and fast in some of the world’s most beautiful and interesting locations. Sophie has proven she can succeed in this format, racing hard whilst tired, recovering quickly and going again – best keep watching; you don’t want to miss a thing!

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