Fran Brown’s rise within paratriathlon has been quite extraordinary, from a first GO TRI event to becoming world champion and competing at a Paralympic Games all in the space of just a few years in the sport.
After the 38-year-old made the decision to step away from paratriathlon last year for health reasons, Brown looks back on her years in swim, bike, run fondly as she continues her pursuit of Paralympic glory in para-cycling where she’s already experienced success.
“It was such a good few years,” Brown reflected. “It’s a shame it was so short, but I had to make the call to step away. It was quite a whirlwind journey from starting and getting classified in 2016 through to being world champion in 2019 and then making a [Paralympic] Games especially during the pandemic and everything that was going on.
“Although it has been a whirlwind experience it has all been so positive. Everyone in British Triathlon, the squad, the athletes, the staff, it’s such a nice environment and team to be a part of.
“That’s why it was so difficult to make the decision to leave. I’ve made a lot of friends and had a lot of really positive experiences and to have to step away rather than choose to is a little bit frustrating but I’m really proud of what I achieved.”
Brown came into paratriathlon in 2016 as a two-time world champion para climber, having previously used swimming as cross training and having also cycled. The welcoming events of GO TRI is a common path into the sport, and for Brown it was a chance to combine swim, bike, run for the first time.
“I didn’t know how I would fit in and do it,” Brown said on her first event at the London Aquatics Centre. “I felt like I was going to be really slow. I was still running with crutches at the time. That’s the good thing about GO TRI, it’s welcoming and inclusive. Nobody is there to look at a time or to win. It’s about doing it.
“The main thing that helped me was it’s such a welcoming sport. People were really forthcoming in offering advice and help. As much as I am competitive, I hate being in an environment where you don’t feel welcome because people are too focused and too competitive, but it wasn’t like that at all.”
The welcoming atmosphere was a reoccurring theme throughout Brown’s time in paratriathlon and, among the many highlights which included two European titles and representing ParalympicsGB at Tokyo 2020, 2019 was a particular year that stood out for Brown.
It was a year that saw Brown become women’s PTS2 world champion only three years after first taking up the sport.
“Without the race experience and experience of competing at that level in the first couple of years, I don’t think I would have won the worlds in 2019. Every time you race or take part in an event you learn something,” Brown said.
“2019 was definitely the pinnacle for me. It was a really special moment [becoming world champion] especially because there was a full field there. I had hoped to do well in that worlds purely because I knew you would have to be a good biker to perform well on the course because it was quite hilly, but you still have to turn up and perform on the day.
“Whenever you get to wear the GB kit and represent your country, it’s obviously an honour. I remember getting my first bit of kit and thinking that’s so cool because you are representing your country.
“I always found it an incredible privilege to have all of that funded and all the support we get through British Triathlon and the support of UK Sport and the National Lottery because there are some countries and athletes that don’t have that opportunity and they’re restricted, so it’s not only an honour but it’s quite a privilege too.”
2021 saw Brown’s final paratriathlon events with a second European title and a world silver medal following her fourth-place finish at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
A year later, because of the way her running had been impacted by health issues, Brown made the decision to transfer from paratriathlon to para-cycling, winning two world titles and being named the UCI’s Para Cycling Female of the Year in 2022.
Speaking about Brown’s time on the World Class Programme, British Triathlon Performance Director, Mike Cavendish, said: “We’re proud to have a World Class Programme that not only supports athletes during their time within our sport but also in whatever they decide to pursue next, whether that’s still within elite sport or outside of sport.
“Fran made the transition into para-cycling with our blessing, and we hope that the support, development and experiences she has gained during her time on our programme will contribute to the successes she will no doubt continue to have within elite sport. We wish her the best of luck and look forward to following her progress within para-cycling.”
The 2023 National Lottery Funded World Class Programme was announced earlier this year. Find out who is included by reading the article here.