A conversation in a taxi is perhaps one of the most unexpected ways of finding out about the Great Britain Age-Group Team, but that is how the Age-Group journey of Linda Russell-Bond began.
Since making her GB Age-Group Team debut in 2018, Russell-Bond has won multiple world and European medals in triathlon and this weekend the 65-year-old will take to the Europe Triathlon Championships start line in Poland as the defending European champion in the female 65-69 age group.
“I’d always fancied doing triathlon, but I never really got around to it with everything else I was doing in my life,” Russell-Bond said. “My son and I were going to do the Great North Run, but we didn’t get in. Then an email popped up for a triathlon in London and I thought ‘why don’t we try this instead?’ and that’s what we did. I thoroughly enjoyed it and thought I will have another go.
“I entered the sprint event at Leeds and, as I left the hotel, I met Alison Trauttmansdorff [GB Age-Group Team member]. We were both waiting for a taxi and, as we were both going to the triathlon, we decided to share one.
“When we were in the back of the taxi, Alison asked me if I had thought about qualifying for the GB team. ‘The GB team?’ I said, ‘this is my first one, I’m not sure I’m quite up to that yet’. ‘You need to have a go’, Alison said, ‘a friend of mine does it and I’m in it’.”
With those words fresh in her mind, Russell-Bond was the first finisher in her age group in the sprint event she had entered and decided to enter the British Triathlon Standard Distance Championships at the same event in Leeds the year after.
A year later, Russell-Bond again finished first in her age group which also saw her qualify to represent the GB Age-Group Team. Since that moment, swim, bike, run has taken Russell-Bond to cities across Europe and even as far as Australia, where she won sprint triathlon bronze at her first World Championships in 2018.
“I was over the moon to get third there,” Russell-Bond reflected. “I just wanted to go and experience it and finish it without falling off. So, when I got a medal, I was just over the moon.
“Since then, I’ve just built on that and loved the people I’ve met, the places I’ve been able to go to. I find the triathlon community really supportive, and I do feel proud to put the GB tracksuit on. Whether I got on a podium or not, it’s good to be able to support others and see how well everybody does.”
Her family is no stranger to sporting success with her dad Ken writing himself into the history books when he went solo to win the Tour of Britain cycle race 70 years ago this year. But, despite her dad’s success on two wheels, cycling wasn’t the main draw into swim, bike, run.
“Ironically, I didn’t get into it through cycling,” Russell-Bond explained. “My sister and I were never encouraged to do cycling, but what we were encouraged to do was things they [her parents] hadn’t been able to do.
“My dad could never swim, and my mum was a poor swimmer so my mum encouraged us to go swimming, so that was my main sport when I was young, but at school I was into all sports.
“I was a PE teacher in the first part of my career and went on to be a headteacher, but throughout that, sport has been an element of my life. I started running to just keep fit and then did a few half marathons and marathons. Then I got into cycling because I did a charity event in India for women’s cancer and when I got back my husband and I both bought a racing bike and really enjoyed it.
“I wish I had done it sooner, but, when I’m competing, my dad’s at the back of my mind pushing me along and my mum and sister have also always been there encouraging and supporting me.”
Alongside the inspiration and support of her parents and family, the reigning European sprint and standard champion also gets inspiration from fellow Age-Group Team members.
“I feel very honoured to be able to still do that at my age and I know age shouldn’t be a barrier, but it’s given me inspiration and made me want to do sport for a longer time,” Russell-Bond said.
“I thought I was doing well competing in my 60s but then you see people aged 75 years and older competing. It does give you inspiration and has given me a fresh goal in life. Think what you can do in the future, rather than what you can’t.
“I will do my best in the sense that I hope the three disciplines go as well as they can and, yes, ultimately, I’m there to win but I’m there to take part as well. I know that’s a bit of a cliché, but I do enjoy taking part and being with other people, but once I get there, I will do my best and that’s all I can do.
“Ultimately, I love participating and if I get a podium at the end of that, particularly a gold, I will be over the moon.”
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