AG tale: Triathlon World Championships

Sheffield-based physio Steve Canning on the privilege of racing at the ITU World Champs


On 15th September 2013 I represented Great Britain at the Triathlon World Championships in London, where I raced in the Olympic-distance triathlon in the 30-34 age group. Earlier in the year I had qualified as one of the fastest 25 athletes in my category at the British Championships in Liverpool. This is the story of my weekend…


All the hard training had been completed. The last few swim sessions, runs and rides were ticked off. I spent a busy week at work, whilst trying to squeeze in my final kit checks and get some rest time (easier said than done!). I was feeling ready, and made an early trip down to London on Friday morning to register and attend the team briefing.

It was great to finally arrive in Hyde Park, which was awash with triathletes from all over the world. Events were already taking place as I made my way to the registration area. It was the day of the Sprint and Para Triathlon competitions.

I picked up my race numbers and timing chip and familiarised myself with the venue. The scale of the event was unlike any other triathlon I’ve entered before. There was a huge grandstand at the finish line, a big expo, and hundreds of super-fit sportsmen and women milling around.

Race day

Saturday morning started early as we made our way down to the venue to watch the elite female triathlon. It proved to be a cracking race, with one of the favourites losing too much time on the swim to make it up, and the pre-race championship leader crashing out on the slippery bike course. This resulted in a perfect situation for GB as Non Stanford cruised to victory and took the 2013 World Championship title with it.

It was brilliant to see all the action unfold in front of us, and even the rain didn’t dampen the British crowd’s spirits. I was in the mood for racing now and keen to fit in my last swim. I took a quick dip in the Serpentine to get used to the water before having a slightly relaxing afternoon, only interrupting it with a 15-minute run.

Sunday morning began with a nice fresh start. I left the hotel before 6am, and it was still quite dark outside. I arrived at transition to put my last pieces of kit in place before doing my warm up. Then it was into the wetsuit and time to get to the Serpentine.

The swim gets shortened

The news filtered through that as the water temperature was still quite cold the swim was going to be reduced from 1500m to 750m; it was a shame that we weren’t going to be able to complete the full distance, but I had to put this to the back of my mind and keep focused on the race ahead.

The starting klaxon soon came around and we were off. I made a steady start and got into a good rhythm early. The swim is my weakest of the three disciplines, so my aim is always damage limitation here! I was happy to be not too far back as we came out of the water.

It was a long run to the transition area and it can be a bit tricky when you’re still half wearing a wetsuit. But the transition went smoothly and soon I was on my bike and ready to hit the streets of London.

Privileged racing

I was really excited to be racing through London on this bike course. The route started around Hyde Park before heading out through the Wellington monument and along the River Thames to Tower Bridge. We then returned to the park via Trafalgar Square, The Mall and Buckingham Palace.

It was a real privilege to be racing past these venues on closed roads in such an iconic race. The route was fairly technical in places, and busy with triathletes from a variety of different categories. This made it tough work, but the two-lap 40km course was soon over. I had completed this section in just over one hour.

I had another fluid transition from bike to run again, after having to go a long way from the dismount line to where I racked my bike. My cold hands struggled to get my helmet off, but it didn’t slow me down too much. Once the run shoes were quickly on, I was off.

57th in the world

The final leg was a three-lap route around Hyde Park. You got a better sense of the crowd at this point. Having hundreds of people cheering you on, shouting your name and “Go GB” was incredible. I had a lot of my family there and it gave me a real buzz when I passed them on each lap.

After completing my three laps it was off down the finish chute onto the blue carpet and across the finish line. I had completed it in one hour and 59 minutes. This put me 57th in the world in the 30-34 age category (out of 139).

I had achieved my goal for the season, and exceeded my expectations in being able to put on my GB kit and race for my country. At last I could celebrate. I found my family, took lots of pictures and enjoyed the occasion.

The Brownlees do battle

All that was left to do later in the day was to watch the Brownlee brothers do battle on the same course in the elite men’s race. It was poised to be a brilliant race and it didn’t disappoint.

Unfortunately it didn’t have quite the fairytale ending, with Spain’s Javier Gomez outsprinting Jonny Brownlee on the line to take the race win, and the World Championship title alongside it.

Alistair Brownlee raced, but on the run section he struggled with an ankle injury, and had to hobble round just to complete it. With true Yorkshire grit he didn’t give up and crossed the line to a brilliant reception.

It was an epic weekend of triathlon, and it capped a brilliant season of training and racing. It will be an event that will live long in the memory. Now I just have to find a way to top that in 2014!


Steve Canning is a physiotherapist at