A quadruple European champion in mixed relay, in recent years Sian Rainsley has begun to make proper waves as a triathlete in her own right – and all achieved despite a debilitating, ongoing illness.
Here, we take a look at her story so far.
Who is Sian Rainsley?
Having started competing in triathlons at the age of seven, Coventry’s Sian Rainsley enjoyed plenty of success during her junior years, particularly as part of relay squads.
She was only a couple of months beyond her 16th birthday when she took her first European title, in Turkey in 2013, as part of the GB victorious junior mixed relay quartet.
Further European champs relay golds would come in Lisbon in 2016 (junior), Hungary in 2017 (U23) and Kitzbühel in 2021 (elite).
Her individual career has been less medal-laden, although it has seen several podium places in European Cup competition at a variety of age categories.
A comparatively late arrival on the World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS), Rainsley didn’t make her bow on the circuit until 2021, when she was 24.
By the time of her fourth race in the series, though, she clocked up a top-five finish in Hamburg, swiftly following it up with an individual bronze in the European champs in Valencia. Earlier this year came the Arena Games in Singapore, where Rainsley came an impressive fourth.
A few months later, as fifth-ranked athlete, she might have forced her way onto the podium at the Commonwealth Games on her (near) home turf of Birmingham, but instead disappointingly under-performed and finished outside the top 10.
Still, the fact that Rainsley was even on the start line in Birmingham was quite remarkable. Seven years earlier, she had been diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and was subsequently told the condition would prohibit her becoming an elite sportswoman.
“It was the lowest point of my life,” she admits. That Rainsley hasn’t let it stop her competing against the world’s best is testament to her spirit and tenacity.
How old is Sian Rainsley?
Sian Rainsley was born on April 19 1997, making her 25 years of age.
Sian Rainsley’s career highlights
June 2013: European champion for the first time
In Alanya in Turkey, 16-year-old Rainsley becomes a European champion, taking gold alongside the rest of the GB junior mixed relay squad.
Two weeks later, she steps up to join the U23/youth women’s relay team, taking another European championship medal in the Netherlands, this time the bronze.
August 2014: Silver in China
Again showing her worth in a team environment, Rainsley is part of the GB youth mixed relay quartet which takes silver at the Youth Olympic Games in the Chinese city of Nanjing,
September 2014: Second place in Turkey
Rainsley records her best individual performance to date, finishing as runner-up in the junior European Cup race in Alanya.
May 2016: European champion for the second time
Having finished seventh in the junior women’s race the day before, Rainsley is a continental queen again, taking gold as part of the triumphant junior mixed relay squad.
August 2016: A high ranking at the nationals
At the national spring championships in Liverpool, Rainsley finishes third in the junior women rankings (behind Olivia Mathias and Kate Waugh), a position that gives her a top-five finish among the elite women.
March 2017: Maiden top 10 in international elite race
August 2017: Medals at the double at the Euros
Very much starting to make an impression in individual competition, Rainsley takes bronze at the U23 European championships in Hungary, behind gold medal-winning compatriot Georgia Taylor-Brown. Rainsley is only four months out of her teens.
She also takes gold the following day in the mixed relay, her third European title.
August 2019: First podium as an elite racer
Rainsley takes bronze in a European Cup race in Kecskemét in Hungary. Three of her compatriots also make the top 10, but she leads the Brit pack.
June 2021: Rainsley makes her WTCS debut
In her adopted city of Leeds, Rainsley makes her WTCS bow and finishes a creditable 13th. A fortnight later, a fourth European champs gold comes her way in Kitzbühel – another mixed relay triumph.
September 2021: Fifth at her fourth WTCS event
Rainsley posts arguably her most significant individual result in her career thus far, scoring a top-five finish in the WTCS race in Hamburg.
A week later, this fine form earns her a bronze at the European championships in Valencia – this time the medal is for her and her alone.
July 2022: Team gold in Hamburg
Having started her leg 10 seconds back on the pack, Rainsley erased this deficit on the swim to lead going into T1, a position she also finished the run in.
July 2022: First taste of a major Games
At the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, just down the road from her native Coventry, Rainsley was competing in Sutton Park, scene of her childhood run training.
Despite her local knowledge – and being ranked fifth in a field that contains the highly experienced likes of Flora Duffy, Taylor-Brown and Non Stanford – a disappointing swim finds her finishing a deflating 12th.
Sian Rainsley in quotes
On racing after being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease: “I was hospitalised for a few days with it in 2018 and that was when the doctors told me that it would be impossible to continue into elite sport – especially an endurance sport like triathlon. But over the next two years, I built back my fitness and in 2021 I made the move into the pro senior ranks and have never looked back.”
On her WTCS debut in Leeds in 2021: “I was running along next to Non Stanford and Katie Zaferes. It was really surreal to be doing that [with] people I’d been looking up to.”
On finishing a disappointing 12th in the 2022 Commonwealth Games, having gone into the race ranked fifth: “The swim was probably the worst I’ve had all year. The crowds were insane and kept me going, but I just burnt too many matches trying to get back into the race. Top 15 on a bad day isn’t too bad, I guess.”
What’s next for Sian Rainsley?
While her partner Tom Bishop has been making the transition to middle-distance racing, at 25 Rainsley doesn’t need to consider such thing just yet.
Instead, she’ll be concentrating on making herself a fixture of top 10s on the WTCS circuit, with more than half an eye on Olympic selection for Paris 2024.
Top image credit: World Triathlon