Swimming. Jumping out into the cold. Cycling. More cold. Running. Even more cold. Triathlon may seem like a sport purposefully designed to capture the essence of those grim October PE lessons spent slogging round a field in the rain while the substitute teacher with too much power and a waterproof coat screams at you, but some people seem to enjoy it. So much so that these last few weeks have seen the Oxford University Triathlon Team enjoy enormous success in both varsity and at the BUCS nationals.
This year’s varsity was held for the first time at Leicestershire’s Belvoir Castle, a fantastic but tough course composed of a shallow swim, a 400m transition period and a running section effectively all hill. Such difficult conditions however, according to Luke Sperry, “brought out the best” in the Oxford team. Though 34 athletes competed for Oxford in this year’s race, each team’s score is equated by adding the top three times together. The men were led by Oliver Crossley, Thomas Lewin and Charlton Bannister, winning by a very impressive 15 seconds to claim the trophy for the first time since 2003. The Oxford women’s team, which has traditionally been stronger in comparison to Cambridge, dominated the race from start to finish, a team of Sophia Saller, Imogen Kempton and Renee Haver beating their opposition by an astounding 25 minutes to round off a very successful day of racing for the entire OUTriC.
Buoyed by this performance, the club went to the BUCS nationals full of momentum, with Renee Haver (16th in the women’s category), Imogen Kempton (18th in the women’s), and Oliver Crossley (23rd in the men’s) registering some excellent finishes, especially in the difficult weather conditions. All three are now lucky to gain their full blues after success at both levels, while the other three have a chance to gain their half blue colours.
Sperry was particularly proud of the strong showing from both sides of the club, commenting, “Though there are more men than women are competing, the phenomenal success of both teams attests to the healthy continuing growth of both male and female participation.” This growth is down undeniably to the encouragement by the OUTriC committee in attracting not just sadomasochistic endurance athletes, but also the newcomers and those wanting to keep fit. They have developed a resolute squad across the year, ranging from ex-OUBC oarsmen to complete novices to endurance athletes.
All three men in varsity this year had never competed in the triathlon before reaching university, making use of the most the excellent facilities and coaching structure. This year saw the addition of new central performance coach Rachel Hallam who, according to a various members of the club, has been “absolutely marvellous”. Making sure both elements of the club, from the casual to the competitive, are well maintained and managed is evidently important for Sperry and his committee.
Though the committee is in the process of handing over, Sperry is confident of the continued excellence demonstrated by this year’s fantastic results. “We would encourage anyone who is considering getting involved with a new sport,” he tells Cherwell, “whether it’s in order to compete at a high level or to try something new, to give triathlon a go.”
With this year’s excellent record, a growing team and an enthusiastic, dedicated committee, it might just be enough to get people to forget those cold winter cross country runs at school and give triathlon the chance the sport deserves. Well, maybe.