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Regional impact from global success

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Loughborough-based athlete Alex Yee has gone from strength-to-strength since moving to the performance centre at Loughborough University, with his success an inspiring proposition for centre and East Midlands Regional Academy Coach, Rob Bridges.

Yee came through the London Regional Academy before moving to train in Leeds at the performance centre whilst studying in the city. At the beginning of the first lockdown in 2020, he made the move to Loughborough where he has trained ever since.

“I can probably speak for all academies when I say it has definitely motivated athletes to do well and to try and achieve, and to help them realise that it is actually possible,” Bridges said.

“One of the biggest impacts that Alex has had is that when races happen, he’ll often tweet and say ‘don’t worry if you had a disappointing race because I got lapped out in 2017 at this particular race’.

“I think he’s a really good ambassador for the sport and for kids who haven’t been amazing all the way through the pathway and shows that you can still achieve great things.”

The performance centre in Loughborough includes athletes from across the performance landscape, with World Series athletes like Sophie Coldwell, Paralympic athletes such as George Peasgood and Claire Cashmore, as well as athletes racing in European and World U23 and Youth Championships training there. The centre is also a base for the region’s academy, allowing them access to great facilities when they come together to train.

“Where opportunities arise, in the past, I’ve got the East Mids Academy along to things or I might pull certain athletes along to a session or camp,” Bridges, who is a key link between the centre and the academy, commented.

“Harry Leleu has done certain things with the academy, James Teagle, a few of the older athletes have come and helped out, and the athletes know that there is that link.

“We’ve had several athletes come through the academy and then come to Loughborough through the East Mids. Quite a high percentage of the centre is through East Midlands, which is obviously great for our region.

“Since Alex has been in the centre it’s been Covid, so it’s probably taken a while for people to realise he’s in Loughborough and not Leeds. Athletes do get the opportunity to come into sessions on an ad-hoc basis and that would have definitely happened more in the last couple of years.

“He’s a young lad who’s not that far removed from an academy athlete, whereas the Brownlee brothers are almost inhuman and it’s like how I get from an academy athlete to the Brownlee brothers, but then for them to see Alex dominating and for someone like Alex to have success has had a huge impact on the pathway.”

Yee’s time in Loughborough has been dominated by the pandemic but has also seen him claim his maiden World Triathlon Championship Series victory, earn an Olympic call up and win two Olympic medals.

When asked about what the centre’s been like throughout the pandemic, Bridges answered: “I don’t feel like we’ve done anything massively special. We’ve just kept them in a routine, kept them focussed, given them a purpose to train for potential races and almost tried to give them as much of a head start as possible.

“It’s the same for Alex, we just created an environment for him to come and train. We’ve got three coaches who’ve been in the centre for a while who work collaboratively, and everything works quite smoothly.

“As it got closer to the Olympics, the sessions got more specific for Alex. Some athletes helped him out with heat stuff and specific sessions we wanted to do based on the Tokyo course, but that only really happened in the last 6-8 weeks. The bulk of it was the day-in day-out stuff that we do as a team.

“He wants to engage with the centre, which helps us as coaches. It helps as the group of boys go ‘well I want to train with Alex’, so they train as a group, and it’s just fitted into place really.

“We’ve also had senior females like Jodie and Sophie, we’ve never really had that from a male in terms of performance like a World Series athlete and Alex just fits that bill. I hope we’ve had a positive impact on him in creating a positive, homely environment that’s welcoming to him.”

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