Helen Jenkins’ Olympic Journey 2011-2012
In 2011, we sat down for a catch-up interview with ITU World Champion and Olympic gold favourite Helen Jenkins.
Helen Jenkins wins in Hyde Park at the 2011 Olympic test event (Photo: Triathlon.org | Delly Carr / ITU)
Crowned as the world’s number one Olympic distance triathlete thanks to her second ITU World Championship win, Helen Jenkins reflected on her 2011 season and takes a look at her off season training in the run up to the 2012 Olympic Games when we sport to her in Heathrow’s swanky British Airways lounge in late 2011.
“I think it meant more this year because I knew I was in a position to win it,” she said. “Whereas in 2008, it was a shock to me: I hadn’t raced at all the year beforehand. But this year after Hyde Park, I knew I’d be in with a shot.
“After moving to number one in the rankings in Lausanne, it was mine to lose basically. I think it meant more because I had a better year this year. The only thing I don’t like about being first is that you’re the first person to walk onto the pontoon and choose where you stand – that’s the worst bit; you could go to one end and everyone else could stay at the other!”
After such a colossally successful year, Helen played down the idea that her performance jumped a level in 2011, citing regular run training and the lack of mishaps as factors crucial to victory.
“I put the improvements down to consistent training mostly. From 2008 I haven’t had any really bad injuries or setbacks, so it’s been a progression.
“I really managed to push on with my running over the 2010 winter and came into some good running form this year. At the same time, my swimming and biking didn’t drop off, so all round, although you need to swim and bike well in triathlon, the races are finished with a run, so improving that allowed me to step up those extra few positions.
“To win Hyde Park when that was my main goal was perfect. We pretty much want to replicate that to get into the same kind of form at the same time in 2012. I don’t want to do too much this winter and have something go disastrously wrong, so it’s about not getting too enthusiastic.
“The main thing for me has been getting stuck into a really good gym programme, just consistently doing two or three times a week of core, gym and strength stuff. Sticking to that has really helped, but it’s a long-term thing, not a quick fix. You’re not going to see an improvement in a month or maybe even six months. Really committing to that has shown improvements. Upping the running volume gradually over the past few years has helped too.”
Of course, since London was announced as the venue for the 2012 Olympic games, every British athlete has aspired to take part for their country, but despite being odds-on for the win, Jenkins wasn’t dwelling on gold.
“I do have ambitions but they’re part of day-to-day life. Obviously the Olympics is a major ambition – when I was younger I wanted to go to the Olympics – but at the moment I see it as more of a goal to build towards. It’s not something I’m really consciously thinking about every day, I’m not thinking, ‘it’s my ambition to win gold, it’s my ambition to win gold’. I’m doing the training and that’s part of it; the dedication to relentless training day after day.”
As the 2011 triathlon season ended – “I did my last race of the year in Buffalo in America, pretty much because it’s near Niagara Falls and I just wanted to go there” – Jenkins took some much needed time off from the rigours of daily training.
“You get to that point where you don’t want to do anything and I think it’s just nice to relax. We still do a little bit of activity, but it’s just relaxing and switching off from normal life.
“We saw friends in Boulder, Colorado, and then had two days on the beach in California. We had a holiday for a few nights in Las Vegas and then just a few days chilling out at home, then straight back into training. I had a good three weeks off and that really does help.”
As well as a round of sponsorship obligations to contend with in the off season, Jenkins also had to deal with her raised profile, as thanks to her incredible success and valuable exposure through the BBC’s red button coverage of races, the public and mainstream media finally seem to be taking notice.
“Especially in Wales, a lot more people know who I am now but it’s always supportive. It’s just part of it and it’s good in a way because it prepares you for next year. It’s not so bad. I think with Al and Jonny [Brownlee] doing so well, it’s shared out a bit more amongst us and I think they probably have to do a lot more than I do!
“No one knows how much media and attention there’s going to be with the Olympics, so it’s good to get used to dealing with it. It’s always just a balance and it’s great because you’re profile’s higher, but there are a lot more commitments and you’ve still got to fit your training in. It’s getting the balance and that’s what will be important for the next few months.”
It seemed 2012’s racing would be all about balancing too. As reigning ITU World Champion, Jenkins had to decide how far to push herself in defending her title in such a challenging series of races.
“The main focus is the Olympics and the ITU series is the best preparation because they’ll be the toughest races with the real competition there.
“I guess every race you have to give everything so it’ll just be picking the right races at the right times running up to the Olympics. You might do more training than you’d normally do going in to a very important race, so I’ll be training through some races.
“I’m not sure what I’m going to do after the Games either; whether I’ll keep racing I just don’t know. The rest of the 2012 season I’m not sure what I’ll do. I’ve got a holiday booked for October next year, so that’s planned, but nothing else!”
One thing that was set in stone, however, is that come August, every British fan of triathlon would be behind Jenkins in a once-in-a-lifetime event, as she takes on the worlds’ best on home soil in the hopes of securing Olympic gold.
Helen Jenkins is supported by British Airways, the official airline partner of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, dedicated to helping British talent fly.
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on Friday, July 27th, 2012 at 12:52 pm under Triathlon News.
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Tags: Helen Jenkins, London 2012 Olympic Games, Team GB, Triathlon Plus Magazine