Teenager Mark Agent was left without a coach last summer but triumphed in the 15-19 age group at the World Triathlon Super Sprint Championships in Abu Dhabi in November.
The then 16-year-old had been training with a group in Dubai, where he was born and bred, only for it to fold just months away from the World Triathlon Age-Group Championships.
Agent, who calls Devizes in Wiltshire his home back in the UK, refused to let that get in the way as he pipped New Zealand athlete Grayson Westgate to victory by less than a second in the UAE.
It was Agent’s first international race, and the teenager is now ready to continue making his mark on the world stage.
“I had a bit of a troubled summer trying to figure out coaching, but I eventually got that sorted,” said Agent. “It’s an online coach that I’ve got now, so that’s more tailored to your specific needs.
“When I was with the group, it was more everyone riding together. Having that specificity probably helped me in Abu Dhabi. Because the race was local, I thought why not go in for it and focused on it for the first couple of months of our season. I then came to Abu Dhabi and won it.”
Aside from it being his first international event, there was plenty for Agent to adapt to, with a time trial format differing from the usual mass start system, alongside some unfamiliar competitors.
It meant the 17-year-old had no idea where he had finished when he crossed the line and only discovered the outcome thanks to some friends checking the results page – but the joy of winning was all the same.
“I went in with an open mind, it’s an international event so you don’t really race against the people very often,” added Agent.
“I just came into it with the same mentality I always come into a race with and hoped for the best. I came out with the win, so that was pretty cool.
“The race was weird; it was a time trial format that I hadn’t really done. You couldn’t really gauge who was behind and in front until the results were published, so I came over the line not knowing where I was. One of my mate’s parents came over and told me I’d won, which was a bit of a shock.”
Championship racing opportunities are available in triathlon (swim, bike, run), duathlon (run, bike, run), aquathlon (swim, run), aquabike (swim, bike), cross duathlon (cross country run, mountain bike, cross country run) and triathlon (swim, mountain bike, cross country run) and winter duathlon (cross country run, ski, cross country run) and triathlon (cross country ski, mountain bike, run).
Agent’s victory has changed his outlook for the future, with plans to defend his age group title later this year alongside an eye on competing in longer distance events in the future.
The teenager has lived his entire life in Dubai but is unequivocal about his British identity thanks to summers spent in the UK.
Plans to study aerospace engineering at a British university come with hopes of racing more regularly in Europe, and Agent is excited at the prospect of what is to come.
“I was born out here in Dubai and have been here for 17 years after my parents moved out 25 years ago,” explained Agent.
“It was initially one year for a job opportunity, but they loved the place so stayed. We come from Wiltshire, and we go back there every summer and get a bit of riding and racing in.
“I enjoy the shorter format, getting it done in half an hour and leaving everything out there. Going into longer events, we’ll see how I feel when I get older – I’ve got a long time to feel my way through the sport.
“I definitely would like to do the same event this year in Spain, but I just need to keep doing what I’m doing; racing locally, training, getting better and I’ve got school to focus on too.
“I’ll keep doing what I’m doing and see where that takes me.”
Find out more about representing the Great Britain Age-Group Team and competing in British Age Group Championships on the link below: https://www.britishtriathlon.org/events/championships-and-qualifiers.