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Could Lucy Charles race Tokyo 2020?

In the latest issue, columnist Tim Heming considers Ironman star Lucy Charles' bid for 2020 Olympic GB tri team inclusion. Here he talks with her further about her intentions…

Lucy on her way to second place at the 2017 Ironman World Championships. Credit: Getty Images for Ironman

Is qualifying for Tokyo 2020 something you’re really considering?

It’s a very long shot if I’m honest. [Charles would have to win a predesignated ‘gateway’ race in early season to earn a start at the Yokohama World Series race in May. Yokohama WTS doubles as the first Olympic qualifying event for the British team.] It would involve me doing a bit of crit racing over the winter to see if I want to take it seriously. Although I’d love to give it a go, I don’t want to jeopardise how well Ironman is going, so you may or may not see me, on the start-line. It depends on the big boss Reece and what he’ll tailor my training towards. If we do it, we’ll take it seriously, if we don’t, we’re doing well in the Ironman, so we cannot really lose.

If you were dropped into a WTS race now, how do you feel you’d fair?

I think I’d be fine on the swim and come out with the girls at the front, and I’m strong enough to ride with them. But because I ride all day on my own, it would come down to not wanting to be a liability in the pack and making sure I can ride a road bike technically. I might get dropped on a corner but believe I could get back on.

It would come down to the run. I’ve run a 34min 10km, which is not bad, but probably, where I’d get left at the end. I’ll keep working on that bit. I have a good 5km run time, but my best event in the pool used to be 1,500m freestyle that lasts about the same time as a 5km run. It was an intense event and I don’t mind the intensity.

You were on the funding programme for swimming ahead of 2012. Did you enjoy the experience?

I was on lottery funding but it wasn’t as involved as it is in the tri scene. I think it is when you’re on the pool-specific programme, but because open water was newer, it was more flexible. Each swimmer had more free rein, but there were still key events we had to race. I’m used to the structured programme, but I also enjoy the freedom of Ironman to race when I want and have the sponsors I want. It’s a very different world.

Do you think you have more earning potential with Olympic distance or Ironman racing?

There’s definitely more potential for sponsors in the long-In the distance scene. I’m free to get my own sponsors so there are no limits. It’s harder in the Olympic programme – unless you win a medal, The Brownlee brothers, for example, are household names. Some athletes, such as the Germans, come home from Kona as national heroes, but here you go back to normal life and no-one knows who you are. I think that’s true across all distances.

If it’s not you, who would be your pick of three British women that could be medal contenders in Tokyo?

I’m a big fan of Sophie Coldwell and would like to see her do well. Then you’ve Non [Stanford] and Vicky [Holland]. I couldn’t really pick three, it’s so tough and I wouldn’t want to make the decision at the end of the day.

Finally, the Mixed Relay will be a welcome addition for Tokyo 2020, and this will be factored into the selection policy. Is it an event that interests you?

I’m one of those people who always wants to give everything a go, so it’s definitely something I’d love to have a go at. We are so strong as a nation, it’s a shame we are limited to the number of athletes that can go. We could have an a, b, c team and all make the podium, there is so much depth and talent in Great Britain. Even if I was doing well, it would still be tough to make the team.

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