GOLDEN GIRLS AND GUYS: England's Alex Yee, Sophie Coldwell, Sam Dickinson and Georgia Taylor-Brown (left-right) celebrate winning gold in the mixed relay Triathlon on day three of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. Picture: David Davies/PA Wire.
Triathlons aren’t meant to be a walk in the park but England still strolled to Commonwealth Games team gold in the sunshine.
With men’s champion Alex Yee and Manchester’s women’s silver medallist Georgia Taylor-Brown in the line-up, this was the host team’s race to lose and along with Sophie Coldwell and Sam Dickinson they were faultless from gun to tape for a 46 second victory.
No controversies here, just a slight post-race disagreement between Yee and girlfriend Olivia Matthias, who won silver for Wales. She believed that medal meant they could get a dog, Yee wasn’t so sure.
“We never shook on that, perhaps after Paris,” he joked.
Birmingham’s leafy Sutton Park has not seen scenes like this since the World Scout Jamboree of 1957. Fans were several deep, their roar rolling around the undulating course as England took the lead and turned the screw on rivals.
“The team set me up perfectly for that final leg,” said Taylor-Brown.
“I’ve enjoyed doing that final leg because everyone in front of me are so strong, they do all the hard work. It’s a lot of pressure after they’ve done everything right. I tried to enjoy it and I was smiling the whole way around.
“I put my head down on the bike because my running hasn’t been great, especially on Friday. I was taking all the noise in on the run, once I got over the hill, I knew we’d got it, so I smiled my way to the finish line.”
Yee’s showdown with New Zealand’s Haydn Wilde went to the wire in the men’s race on Friday, with talks of protests and legal letters.
However, he dominated him here, handing over to team-mate Coldwell with a massive 20-second gap.
She extended that by seven seconds as Wales, Scotland and New Zealand gave chase to Sam Dickinson on the third leg.
Dickinson saw that lead trimmed to 16 seconds but Taylor-Brown, the silver medallist in the women’s event, was simply too strong for her rivals.
Former world champion Non Stanford, one of triathlon’s most popular characters in what is set to be the final year of her career, held off Australia to take the silver in a sprint finish.
“It’s never straightforward, so many things can go wrong and little mistakes can cost you decisive penalties,” insisted Yee.
“So much can happen in an hour of triathlon racing. We just wanted to keep things as clean as possible and stay positive through the race.
“The crowds were insane and they gave us a great push. Running down that hill with all the people screaming and the helicopter above us, it felt like I was in the Tour de France. It was really cool.”
Elsewhere, there was triathlon gold for Stockport’s Luke Pollard a year after tears at the Paralympics.
Pollard is guide for top visually-impaired athlete Dave Ellis, whose Tokyo dreams ended when his bike chain broke last summer.
They rebounded to win the world and European titles before Ellis broke both his arms after tripping over an errant dog lead.
But, thankfully, bad luck didn’t come in threes and there were no dramas in Birmingham as they took control of this race from the opening swim. They cruised clear on the bike and then hammered down their advantage in the concluding run.
They powered across the line over four minutes ahead of their nearest rivals from Australia, their winning time 57:39.
“Last year we said we had to put the Paralympics behind us and this was the big focus for this year,” said Pollard,
“We just went full gas the entire way and I feel a bit less fresh than I’d probably like. The crowd was so loud and we were just trying to get around in one piece.”
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