Now that we’ve counted down the top 10 male triathletes of 2014, it’s time to turn our attention to the women…
10. Lauren Steadman
Best result: ITU Paratriathlon world champion
With targeted funding and high level coaching, Britain’s elite paratriathlon success mirrors that of the able-bodied programme, and no more so than in the women’s PT4 division, mainly contested by those with upper limb disabilities. Here Steadman is currently leading the charge.
The psychology graduate from Portsmouth, who turns 22 on 18 December, took the world title from four-time champion Faye McClelland in Edmonton, with Clare Cunningham completing a sweep of the podium for Team GB. It followed European success for Steadman in Kitzbühel and a high profile win in London in May before she finished her paratri season with another victory in Madrid. With McClelland the runner-up on each occasion, it’s a rivalry that's set to run through to triathlon’s Paralympic debut in Rio in 2016.
9. Sarah Groff
Best result: Winner, ITU World Series Stockholm
Groff swapped one multi-national squad under the guidance of Darren Smith for another with Joel Filliol, with the key benefits being less travelling and a more balanced lifestyle. It’s paid dividends. Despite tearing a foot tendon, only once did the gritty American finish outside the top five in six World Series appearances, that consistency placing her overall runner-up behind Gwen Jorgensen as the USA secured a one-two in the standings.
While Jorgensen flows through a triathlon, Groff is a grafter, but the persistence was rewarded with a first World Series win in Stockholm, a runner-up berth in London and fourth in the season finale in Edmonton. Groff, 33, has been competing on the ITU circuit since 2005, finished third overall in 2011 and fourth in the Olympic Games the following summer, but 2014 was her best year to date.
8. Vicky Holland
Best result: Bronze medal, Commonwealth Games
A return to form for Olympian Holland, whose bronze in the Commonwealth Games was a triumph against a wealth of competition from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. Holland had been required to play the domestique role in London 2012 for Helen Jenkins in an ill-fated race that saw her crash on the bike and eventually finish 26th. But she relished the chance to strike out on her own in Glasgow before delivered a more-than-competent super-sprint leg as England won gold in the mixed relay.
Unfortunately for Holland, Strathclyde was her last meaningful action of the season. Having run into the best form of her career, she picked up a plantar facia tear and it was season over and feet up in an air-cast boot.
7. Rachel Joyce
Best result: Runner-up, Challenge Bahrain
Joyce might reflect on Kona 2014 as the one that got away. Now 36, the Boulder-based Brit is one of the most consistent Ironman racers of the past five years and her progression in Hawaii suggested this could be the year she finally picked up the biggest umeke. She eventually finished third having tracked Switzerland’s Daniela Ryf and seen Australian Mirinda Carfrae blast by with her trademark run.
It was still impressive, but the 3:06hr marathon may have left her – and certainly coach Dave Scott – thinking the title was there for the taking. Joyce had cemented qualification for Hawaii in December last year by winning Ironman Cozumel, which allowed her the opportunity to follow Carfrae to Roth, where she was again caught on the run and came second. There may have been no big victories but a tax-free cheque of $50,000 for another runner-up spot at Challenge Bahrain did deliver a nice pre-Christmas bonus.
6. Jodie Swallow
Best result: Fourth, Ironman World Championships
The archetypal front-runner ended last season being waterlogged with a banging headache on the side of the road in Kona. How times change. If there was a non-drafting podium worth being on in 2014 then Swallow was contesting it, quashing any doubts that she might not have the endurance to compete at the full iron distance with the most impressively consistent year of her career. A 2004 Olympian, Swallow showed she still has speed over the standard distance with third against strong competition in the Hy-Vee 5150 USA Championship Elite Cup in Iowa, and kept the run of form going with second in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships the following weekend.
Fourth in Hawaii was another step forward, proving she could handle the heat and humidity, while the hotly disputed penalty she picked up on the bike in Kona fired the motivation for a tilt at Challenge Bahrain and another podium finish in third. There won't be much of an off-season break for the Essex-born multisporter. With a second home in South Africa she’s likely to be back in 70.3 action by next month.
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