A Paralympic gold medal swimmer, a career artist, an age-group world champ, a New Zealand dairy farm native and a triathlon newcomer who represented Great Britain in little over a year.
This is the five-star line-up of the all-action, all-women, Dassi triathlon team that was launched at this year’s Triathlon Show, held at Sandown Park last weekend.
As well as an early morning ride in the Surrey countryside with fellow triathletes and competition winners, a 220 Triathlon Q&A at the Esher venue gave visitors the chance to get to know the team members as they revealed their plans for 2014.
The all-women’s team is the brainchild of Dassi owner, Stuart Abbott. Each of the team members has been provided with a custom-built full-carbon road and time-trial bike in a distinctive black and yellow design.
For anyone missing the launch at the show, here’s a chance to catch up with the team. For more information on Dassi’s range of bikes visit dassi.co.uk.
Vanessa Raw, 29, London
Years in tri: eight
Speciality: Olympic distance
Best discipline: Bike
Best result: 10th, Beijing Olympic test event, 2006
Clare Cunningham, 36, Cambridge
Years in tri: seven
Speciality: Sprint distance
Best discipline: Swim
Best result: World champion (Tri 4 category), 2009
Georgie Rutherford, 29, Kingston upon Thames
Years in tri: nine
Specialty: 70.3 (middle distance/half-Ironman)
Best discipline: All-rounder
Best result: Winner, 2009 World Ironman 70.3 Championships (overall Age Group)
Dana Voysey, 30, London (formerly Te Aroha, New Zealand)
Years in tri: four
Best discipline: Bike
Best result: 10th, Lisbon International Triathlon, 2013
Charlotte Hanson, 28, Surrey
Years in tri: 18 months
Best discipline: Swim
Best result: 11th, World Sprint Triathlon Championships (Age Group) 2013
How were you introduced to the sport?
Clare Cunningham (CC): I competed in the 1992 and 1996 Paralympic Games as a swimmer, winning the gold medal in a world record time for the S9 50m freestyle in 1992, aged 15. However, I retired from swimming in 1996 and barely set foot inside a swimming pool for 10 years before I did my first triathlon in 2006. A work colleague asked if I would be interested in entering the London Triathlon and I continued to compete in age group competitions until I discovered paratriathlon at the end of 2008. At that time the sport was very much at a developmental stage and seeking inclusion in the Paralympic Games. I entered the British Championships in 2009, which I won and I went on to win the World and European Championships that year too. Since 2009 I have won a medal at every World Championships and my goal is to race at the inaugural Paralympic triathlon in 2016.
Charlotte Hanson (CH): I used to compete for Great Britain in both junior and senior water polo teams, between the ages of 15 to 23. Due to developing a career and the lack of funding in the sport, I stopped playing at the age of 26. I only bought my first bike in December 2012 and competed in my first ever sprint triathlon in September 2012 in Petersfield, Hampshire – on a borrowed bike. I then decided to have a crack at triathlon properly in 2013.
What are the benefits of an all-woman tri team such as this?
CC: Despite the success British female triathletes have had in recent years across all distances and disciplines, triathlon is still a largely male dominated sport. You just need to look at start lists for any races from local age group competitions to elite long distance races to see how men outnumber women. However, triathlon as a sport is extremely welcoming and accessible to women – and equality is very important to the sport. Having an all-women triathlon team will hopefully promote this further and encourage more women to become involved.
Georgie Rutherford (GR): We can show other women that they too can aspire to be cyclists and triathletes.
CH: We understand each other and have similar pressures on and off the field.
What are your hopes for the Dassi team?
Vanessa Raw (VR): I’m hoping as a team we all race well but regardless of results we are united to represent a cool brand that every other sportswoman wants to be part of. I would love to see it grow by inspiring companies to come on board and help us, to be part of the journey and represent the growth of women’s sport.
Dana Voysey (DV): We do not only have fantastic bikes, but also mechanical support for servicing. I hope the team can share knowledge and encourage one another. I find just being part of the team alongside such talented athletes very motivational.
CC: Success breeds further success and so I’m sure that once the season starts we will be able to feed off each other as a team.
What are your goals for 2014?
DV: Qualifying for the World Age Group Championships in Sprint, Olympic and 70.3 distances.
CH: Also qualifying for the World Age Group Championships at Olympic distance in Edmonton, Canada in August/September, and competing in the Abu Dhabi Sprint Triathlon and Windsor Elite Olympic Race.
CC: To qualify for, and win, the World Championships.
VR: To have a good introduction into non-drafting races, stay consistent and progress.
GR: Not sure yet. Still to be confirmed!
What is your biggest passion outside triathlon?
VR: Art. Painting came before triathlon and it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. I’m also passionate about design, particularly fashion design. I’m aiming to bring my own brand of chic triathlon clothing to the market, so watch this space.
CC: Before I took up triathlon seriously I did a lot of trekking around the world, including Mount Kilimanjaro, the Inca trail in Peru and the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. There are still so many places I want to see, in particular the Himalayas and more of South America.
DV: Food. My workmates complain that is all I talk about, but that might be because of all the training.
CH: Graphic design, my sausage dog Arnie and gardening!
GR: Getting others involved in sport.
Any strange twists to your sporting career so far?
VR: I had a race from hell in Hungary when I realised the screws had worked loose on my handlebars and then came off completely. I ended up riding with one hand on the two remaining screws whilst the bars fell down. I scared the spectators watching on every corner but made it to T2 before the split transition confused me and couldn’t find my shoes. I ran up and down getting increasingly more desperate and ended up screaming to the crowd to help me. It wasn’t until all the remaining competitors came through and went that I found my shoes! Not my best race.
CC: My disability is that I was born without my left forearm. However I was brought up not to see myself as disabled and that I could do anything that anyone else with two full arms could do. I wear a prosthetic arm in ‘everyday’ life. When I race I don’t wear an arm for the swim or run but I have a bespoke, custom carbon arm which I use on the bike. People seem to be constantly bemused when I set up transition with my prosthetic arm lying across the tri-bars. I’ve seen photos of my kit set up in transition a number of times on social media.
GR: Most annoying was being knocked off by a pack of drafting men at the 2010 World Ironman 70.3 champs which resulted in me crashing and being hit by a cyclist, breaking my ribs.
DV: I raced for Great Britain at the World Age Group champs in New Zealand. It was very strange to be called a ‘Pom’ by the Kiwis because I grew up on a dairy farm near Te Aroha, New Zealand and have only been living in London for five years.
CH: As triathlon is still quite new to me, the whole cycling lycra and time-trial helmets still get me every time.
Growth in UK women’s triathlon is strong at the minute, so what will help you stand out from the crowd?
VR: I am interested in other things aside from triathlon, art, design, travel, etc. I’m also a bit arty in my thinking so others sometimes view things I do as strange. As a team we will stand out with our unique coloured bikes and striking team clothing.
CH: My lovely bike, of course! And my attitude and dedication to sport and ambition to win.
DV: I’m friendly and not afraid to take on a challenge. I like the tough courses because if I’m going to do something, I may as well do it properly. If I’m in a queue I’ll often start a conversation with those around me (that’s the Kiwi in me), so I seem to know quite a lot of people.
CC: We are the only all-women triathlon team at the moment and the support environment Dassi is providing makes us quite a professional outfit. With such a strong team, it is only a matter of time before good results arrive and we’ll get noticed.
(All images: Romilly Lockyer)
Watch this space for a video interview with Team Dassi, filmed at the Triathlon Show last weekend and appearing on 220triathlon.com soon!