British elite junior champion Ben Cumberland took the gold in Slovenia as six Brits finished in the top-ten across the junior men’s and women’s races.
Cumberland was first introduced to triathlon after winning a cross country race in primary school when one of his teachers suggested the sport as something he might be interested in. Becoming part of Vale Tridents Junior Triathlon Club, he would soon discover a love for the sport.
Speaking about his first event, Cumberland reflected: “I think I finished third in the end. I was on a mountain, did it in a pair of swimming trunks and an athletics vest and I just enjoyed the whole thing.
“I remember going as hard as I could and just getting over the line, thinking ‘that was good fun, I want to do that again.’”
Having found his feet in swim, bike, run, Cumberland’s potential saw him selected to race for the South West as a TriStar in the Inter Regional Championships (IRC), a national competition that brings together the regions and nations of Britain to compete against each other.
“The big thing when I was younger was the IRC teams,” Cumberland commented. “As a TriStar 2 I was fifth and qualified the year after as a first year TriStar 3 and was 21st and I was like ‘that’s not too bad, I’ve got another year in the age group’, then the year after I was second.
“I got my first Super Series podium after a long period of injury, then back to racing, then injury and slowly back to racing in 2019. That made me think ‘I want to try and win one of these at some point’ and I managed to win one in Sunderland a couple of weekends ago. That had been my goal for quite a while, to win one of those as a junior before I moved up an age group, so to get that was a really big achievement.”
Taking the Junior Male Super Series race win in Sunderland also saw Cumberland become Elite British Junior Champion, as well as see him sat third in the series standings with one race to go. The final race is on Sunday 11 September at Eton Dorney.
The British Triathlon Super Series cover Youth, Junior and Senior age groups and all Paratriathlon classifications, providing dedicated competitive racing opportunities throughout the year for athlete development.
Cumberland’s development over this year has also come off the back of his selection for the ENG squad, England’s pathway programme for youth and junior athletes.
“The main bit for me is having that extra bit of support,” Cumberland added. “I’ve had Blair [Cartmell] as my ENG coach and we’ve had weekly or once-a-fortnight Zoom calls to catch up and discuss things, but I can drop him a WhatsApp message every now and then to ask him a question. That extra bit of guidance has been really helpful.
“That’s what being part of the ENG is. Training with people who are better than you at different disciplines, it encourages you to be better and almost pushes you to be better.”
Racing in Bled, Cumberland was part of a British squad of 12 junior athletes who all travelled and stayed together as a team, with the event providing the opportunity for them to learn and continue their development by competing on an international stage.
“It was such a nice place and to be with such a nice group of people as well, there was a real good team spirit,” he said.
“To cross the line and think ‘I’ve got this win’ and that it’s another goal I’ve ticked off was really good. Then to shake hands and get to know some of the other athletes that I’ve raced from around the world. I think that’s my favourite bit of the sport. Making friends with new people.
“When you go to a Super Series race you know who‘s the quickest swimmer, who’s the strong runner, who’s the strong biker. When you go to these races, particularly as a junior when you’ve not had much exposure to these sorts of events it’s a whole new racing dynamic.
“You don’t know who’s going to be the fastest in each discipline or what tactics you’ve got to deploy, so you you’ve got to react to things almost as they happen and that’s something I’ve really enjoyed, having to think while I’m racing and my decisions in a race.”
Cumberland was able to share the podium with Oliver Conway who finished third and, standing on the podium, the rest of the British team sang happy birthday to Cumberland as race day was also his 19th birthday before all singing the national anthem.
“We were lining up for the podium and they started singing happy birthday,” he commented. “Then when the national anthem started playing, they all started singing so I felt inclined to join in on the podium.”
The junior men’s race in Bled saw British athletes finish first, third, fifth and sixth, with Hugo Jinks and Thomas Hattee joining Cumberland and Conway in the top-ten. Lawrence Martindale finished 18th and Michael Gar 37th.
In the junior women’s race, Olivia Logan finished fifth, Jessica Turnbull tenth, Ellie Van Der Merwe 12th, Megan Hornung 14th, Alexandra Palotai-Avella 31st and Hannah Mitchell 52nd.