Helen Jenkins’ Olympic Journey 2008-2010
We look back to 2010 when Mark Robinson went to meet Helen Jenkins.
Jenkins (née Tucker) taking an unexpected win at the 2008 World Championships (Photo: Triathlon.org | Delly Carr)
With world titles, marriage, Olympic trips, injuries, and amazing comebacks, it’s been a real roller-coaster ride for Helen Jenkins over the last few years. Now as she prepares for the London 2012 Olympic triathlons, we look back at a key phase in her career: her first World Championship win in 2008.
After some early successes confirmed her promise – such as winning the British Junior Championships in 2003, the British Championships in 2006 and a host of podium finishes in top international races in between – Helen was derailed by an Achilles injury in 2007, when she missed almost the entire season.
Helen has since enjoyed a meteoric rise in the sport, winning the 2008 ITU World Championships and scooping race victories all over the globe. At the time of the interview she was in the middle of a mid-season training break, having clinched back-to back third place finishes in Madrid and Des Moines that left her in a very handy sixth position in the 2010 World Championship Series (WCS) standings.
Coached by her husband Marc Jenkins, Helen is now firmly established as Britain’s finest female standard-distance triathlete, and one of the best in the world.
With the support of her husband Marc Jenkins, she bounced back in style in 2008, the highlight of a fantastic year being victory in the 2008 World Championships in Vancouver. By the time the 2008 Olympics came round in Beijing, her long absence the previous year had taken its toll and she had little left in the tank. She came home in 21st place, but wasn’t too despondent, as she was thrilled to have even made the team after her injury problems. It is, however, something she is eager to put right on home soil in 2012.
“In 2008 I’d had virtually all of the previous year off and so I just wanted to qualify,” she says. “I wasn’t really thinking too much about the Games that year. I went to the ITU Grand Final in Vancouver not expecting to win but did so, which was a really proud moment for me – the best of my career to date. But by the time of the Olympics I’d run out of steam. I learned a lot there though and will be better prepared in 2012, provided I make the team and am lucky with injuries.
“Qualification has started now for 2012 and all the girls are fighting for those three spots on the team. We’re all friendly but are very focused: everyone knows only three of us can make it and that some of us will be left disappointed. We’re all chasing the same goal but we don’t really talk about it much between ourselves.
“However, I won’t be doing anything different in the run-up to the Olympics. You need to focus on all three disciplines and be consistent across all of them. I don’t want to spend the next 18 months improving my run and neglecting the others.”
So far, 2010 has gone well for Helen, with her performances improving as the year has gone on. Her podium places in Des Moines and Madrid leave her prominent in the ITU WCS standings and in a good position from which to aim herself at her big end-of-season target: the ITU Grand Final in Budapest in September. And despite all the experience she has accrued in her career to date, one of the most refreshing things about her is her eagerness to carry on learning.
“Triathlon is very unpredictable and one of the key things is learning from the races – it’s not just about training,” she says. “Tactics and pace are becoming more and more important, especially this season. This year the running legs have seen more tightly grouped packs than usual, so it’s about learning to win from different positions.
“This year the women’s circuit has seen a change similar to the one that happened with the men a few years ago – we are all emerging from the swim closer together, whereas in the past it’s been more staggered. So tactics are increasingly important. But Marc and I don’t pay too much attention to the tables at this stage of the season, it’s more about taking one race at a time.”
“It’s true – as far as the WCS goes, we’re not obsessed by the standings,” says Marc, as he switches to coaching mode. “Finishing high up isn’t an overall goal. We don’t look at it as wanting to finish third or fifth in the table. It’s about Helen qualifying for the Grand Final, being there at the start line at her peak and ready to do herself justice. Early-season races are about improvement, building up to Budapest. Whether she’s first or 20th in the table doesn’t matter – it’s about how she does on the day.”
We look forward to seeing Helen in action at the London 2012 Olympic Triathlon on Saturday 4 August.
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on Thursday, July 26th, 2012 at 4:38 pm under Triathlon News.
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Tags: Helen Jenkins, London 2012 Olympic Games, Triathlon Interviews