Non Stanford: Background, career highlights, quotes

Welsh triathlete Non Stanford is one of Team GB's most successful female Olympic-distance athletes. Here's everything you need to know about the former world champion and Olympian…

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 14:  Non Stanford of Great Britain celebrates winning the Pruhealth World Triathalon Grand Final and the ITU World Triathalon Series at Hyde Park on September 14, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Even though she’s won various world championships in her career, the title that will always stand out for Wales’s Non Stanford is the elite world crown she won so majestically in London in 2013.


In doing so, she became the third British woman to be anointed so, after Leanda Cave and Helen Tucker/Jenkins.

Who is Non Stanford?

When she was younger, Swansea-raised Non Stanford always looked like the running track would be the obvious destination for someone of her talents.

In 2006, she finished third in the 3000m in the AAA indoor championships, having already been the Welsh Schools 1500m champion three years on the trot.

Then fate intervened. While at university in Birmingham, an injury meant Stanford could only train in the pool. Once back to fitness, this swim training had awakened an interest in multisport, causing her to join the university triathlon club.

It was a good move. Within a year of taking up the sport, Stanford had come second at the 2009 British Triathlon Super Series.

Four years later, Stanford was on top of the world. Racing as the current U23 world champion, she upgraded that to the elite title the following year as she took victory in an action-packed Grand Final in London in 2013.

It was a history-making achievement: the first woman to become the elite world champion 12 months after doing so in the U23 event.

Thanks to injury, Stanford hasn’t managed to recreate that glorious 2013 season in the years since. A disappointment is surely her Olympic record. In 2016, she came forth in Rio, having been overpowered in the closing stages by team-mate Vicky Holland.

When it came to Tokyo 2020, Stanford was again pipped by Holland; this time, her housemate got the nod ahead of her for the third and final place on the Team GB squad.

How old is Non Stanford?

Non Stanford was born on 8 January 1989, making her 33 years of age.

Non Stanford’s career highlights

Non Stanford, Gwen Jorgensen and Vicky Holland celebrate at the 2015 ITU World Grand Final on 18 September, 2015, in Chicago, Illinois. Credit: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Threadneedle

June 2010: An impressive elevation into the elite ranks

In Belgium, a first elite podium beckons Stanford after an impressive third at the ITU European Cup in Brasschaat less than two years after taking up the sport.

August 2012: It’s gold in Sweden as Stanford and team conquer the world

Stanford is part of the quartet that takes gold at the mixed relay world championships in Stockholm. The previous day, her sixth in the elite race gives the South Walian her first WTS top ten finish.

October 2012: Individual world champs glory is secured in New Zealand

Victory in the U23 category at the WTS Grand Final in Auckland secures the world U23 crown for Stanford.

June 2013: Atop the WTS podium for the first time

Non Stanford en route to her first World Triathlon Series race win on 1 June, 2013, in Madrid, Spain. Credit: Janos Schmidt/International Triathlon Union via Getty Images

Stanford’s maiden victory in the WTS series is scored in Madrid, following a second place in San Diego in April. Among the scalps in the Spanish capital are the German Anne Haug, the American Gwen Jorgensen and Stanford’s compatriot Jodie Stimpson.

September 2013: A history-making run on a dramatic day

Non Stanford wins ITU World Triathlon Grand Final London on 14 September, 2013. Credit: Jan Kruger/Getty Images

After a further pair of second-place finishes in Hamburg and Stockholm, Stanford arrives in London focused on winning the world title. Her main rivals, Haug and Jorgensen, both come a cropper; Haug has a very poor swim while Jorgensen suffers a nasty bike crash on the wet London streets.

Even though she accumulates a 15sec penalty on the run, Stanford glides to victory, the first woman to win the U23 and elite world titles in successive seasons.

August 2015: The post-injury comeback is on course

After the 2014 season is a write-off thanks to injury, Stanford comes second in the qualification event for Rio 2016. This, combined with another runners-up spot in Chicago at the WTS Grand Final the following month, confirms she’s a strong prospect come next summer.

August 2016: Stanford misses an Olympic bronze by three seconds

Medal winners from left: Nicola Spirig, silver, Vicky Holland, bronze, and Gwen Jorgensen, gold, console fourth-placed Non Stanford at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games. Credit: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Stanford is agonisingly close to an Olympic medal but is outsprinted in the last 200 metres by her housemate Vicky Holland who takes the bronze behind Jorgensen and Switzerland’s Nicola Spirig.

May 2018: A long-awaited return to a WTS top three

After a so-so 2017 season, Stanford returns to the WTS podium, finishing third in Yokohama behind Bermuda’s Flora Duffy and Katie Zaferes of the USA.

July 2019: Back to winning ways at a sprint

Non Stanford wins the Hamburg World Triathlon race on 6 July, 2019. Credit: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images for IRONMAN

After finishing fifth in her backyard of Leeds, Stanford takes an impressive victory over the shorter distance in Hamburg.

August 2019: Further Olympic disappointment

Stanford comes seventh in the Olympic qualification event in Tokyo. However, she fails to be selected by Team GB as, under the rules, any previous GB Olympic medallist will receive automatic selection if they finish in the top three places of the qualification event.

Vicky Holland meets these criteria but, argues Stanford, she only finished third after joint-winners Georgia Taylor-Brown and Jess Learmonth were disqualified. Stanford’s appeal is unsuccessful.

March 2022: Couple goals

Following a mixed bag of results in 2021 with a best result of seventh place in Yokohama, Non starts the 2022 season with a bang at the new Couples Championship event in Florida, USA. Racing as a team with fiancé Aaron Royle, the couple bag the top spot and with it the $100,000 prize.

July 2022: Welsh pride

At an almost-home Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, Non is delighted to finish sixth in the individual race – “Probably the most I’ve ever enjoyed a race. I smiled the whole way around” – before anchoring the Welsh mixed relay team to a jubilant silver.

August 2022: Becomes European Champion

Becomes European champion in her last season of pro racing (Credit: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

Stanford smashes the competition in Munich to become the 2022 European champion, shortly before officially announcing her retirement from professional racing at the end of the season.

Non Stanford quotes

On becoming world champion in 2013: “It’s been at the forefront of my mind. I haven’t slept for about three weeks because it’s all I’ve been thinking about. And I can’t believe I’ve actually pulled it off.”

On experiencing her first Olympics at Rio 2016: “It’s a different world, like stepping through the wardrobe doors into Narnia. You’re lost in a parallel world that’s cut off from normality and reality. Nothing much penetrates. The outside world is but a hazy blur that passes on the other side of the bubble.”

On not making the GB team for the Tokyo Olympics: “I’ve had time to process the decision and process the disappointment and all the frustrations I had around the selections that were made. I’ve got to a point now where I can’t be bitter about what happened. It was never anything personal against their selection.”

On retiring from triathlon at the end of 2022: “Stepping away from competitive triathlon has been a difficult decision. I’ve had such an amazing experience on the World Class programme, despite the many ups and downs that I’ve faced during my career; and that’s largely thanks to the people, both athletes and staff.”

On her new role as a coach for British Triathlon: “Ever since being mentored by Dame Kelly Holmes in my teenage years, I’ve been intent on one day paying that forward, by giving back to the sport that has given me so much. I’m incredibly grateful that British Triathlon has given me the opportunity to make this passion a reality.”

What’s next for Non Stanford?

There’s an outside chance that Stanford could make the cut for the Paris Olympics in 2024, but more realistic goals include a few more WTS podium appearances, as well as taking a medal for Wales in the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Success at the Birmingham Games would be especially neat for Stanford; this is the city where she first took up triathlon.


Top image: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images