In December, Olympic triathlete Vicky Holland could not run. Suffering from plantar fasciitis in both feet, with one so severe her foot was in a boot, the Commonwealth bronze medallist had been forced to take a step back from her sport. Fast forward five months and the 29-year-old has won her first World Series gold medal. She crossed the line in Capetown last weekend to claim her maiden title over a world-class field.To say her campaign to be selected for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games has started well is an understatement.
Holland admitted while it was a surprise to win, she knew the Olympic distance race was going to be wide open.
“The former world leader Gwen Jorgensen wasn’t there, so I went in not really fearing anyone,” the Leeds-based triathlete said.
“I had a good a shout as anyone but it’s really hard to gauge when you have’t raced. I thought to myself if I did everything right, I could get on the podium. I knew if I was in as good form as I wanted to be in, there was a possibility I could win. I was running within myself on the run, I knew I could push on but didn’t want to go early in case I didn’t have endurance. I wound the pace up with 2km to go and then wound it up again and again and the string broke with 1km to go. I turned around because I couldn’t hear footsteps and knew I had a gap. I thought, well I’m either going to win this or go down in flames. But I held on.”
Holland attributes her remarkable return to form to her stellar coaching and physio team in Leeds, as well as increasing the number of miles she did in training on the bike. When she returned to running in January, she already felt fit and fast and was in the best shape possible on the start-line in Capetown for her return from injury.
But the Commonwealth team champion is not resting on her laurels, with Olympic selection tests in Rio de Janeiro and Chicago later this year. “This weekend was incredible to win my first World Series, but there are bigger, more important races. I have to focus on those so I’m back to it already,” Holland said. “There are more races coming up the year that are the real aims and I can’t get too carried away by this win. “I know, if I want to make it to the Rio startline, I have to prove myself this year.”
Beyond Holland’s remarkable individual achievement, the four British triathletes who entered the Capetown race in both the women’s and men’s race all finished in the top 10 and the Brits won both races. Alistair Brownlee, fresh from ankle injury himself, won the men’s race despite stumbling to the floor in the second lap of the run. Helen Jenkins finished fifth in the women’s race, with Emma Pallant coming home 10th. But this is no match for the American women, who have had three athletes finish in the top 10 at each of the four races so far this year.
Holland added: “It’s really great for British Triathlon. “We have stamped our marker on the world, we’re saying don’t forget us, we are still here. The US have been so dominant, and in the women’s rankings, they are still the top three. “They have picked up a clean sweep already (Gold Coast World Series) and been one step ahead. But we are biding our time and I can’t wait to see what happens when Jodie (Stimpson), Non (Stanford), Helen and I are back.”
The next World Series event is in London on May 30/31. The Olympic test event, which also acts as the first Olympic selection race, is in Rio on August 1/2, and the Grand Final is in Chicago on September 19/20.