Sibling inspiration powered Walker Meers to debut world gold


Sophie Walker Meers says channelling inspiration from her sister fired her to a sensational World Championship gold in her first ever international triathlon.

The 31-year-old from Ely Triathlon Club watched sibling Kimberley Barfoot-Brace soar to glory as part of the Great Britain Age-Group Team back in 2021.

And after being inspired to follow in her glittering footsteps, Walker Meers went on to grab gold in the 30-34 age group at the 2022 World Triathlon Long Distance Championships in Samorin in August.

"It was my first time representing the British Triathlon Age-Group," said Walker Meers, who crossed the finish line in a time of 04:34:51. “I qualified to do the aquathlon in 2020 but that didn't happen because of Covid and then I picked up cycling over lockdown.

"My sister is a big inspiration for me, and she was actually the world champion for her age group in 2021. She was encouraging me to register to qualify, and that's my motivation for wanting to go to the event."

Walker Meers works as a Food Technologist and is often tasked with finding new ways to adapt and change her training when working abroad.

That was a challenge she was forced to navigate before the World Championships last year, working away in Italy and unable to swim or cycle just two weeks away from the event.

But with a background in competitive swimming and the knowledge that the conditions would suit her strengths, Walker Meers was undoubtedly at her best in Slovakia.

"I didn't really have any expectations," she said. “The distance was quite unique this year at 100km with a slightly bigger swim bias and the course in Slovakia is very flat and known to be windy which is very similar to where I train in Cambridgeshire. So, I knew the course would suit my strengths.

"The conditions were quite testing from a wind perspective and the water was quite choppy but that's quite good for stronger swimmers. The first 40km of the bike was in a tailwind and the last 40km was in a headwind which was slightly soul destroying, but I knew that it was just like a normal training weekend for me. To win my age group was just the cherry on the cake really."

The GB Age-Group Team provide British Triathlon members with the opportunity to represent Great Britain internationally at World and European Championships in a variety of swim, bike, run disciplines and distances.

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).

Walker Meers also undertook IRONMAN 70.3 Portugal this year, a challenge she relished despite finishing further back than she would have liked.

With a brand-new year awaiting, the jack of all trades is excited to add shorter sprint distances and local events to her CV.

She said: "I've always enjoyed doing multisport events, otherwise I get to a point in a sport where I'm quite good at it but then I want to move on and do something else rather than taking the time to master one thing.

"In triathlon, even if you get a little fed up with one of the sports, you can just do the other ones. There's always one area you can focus on, work on and improve.

"I'm registered to go to the Long Distance World Championships in May with the British Triathlon Age-Group Team, so that will be one of my first targets of the season.

"And then I want to do a lot more local racing this year and give back to the Tri clubs who have supported me by racing and volunteering at events."

Find out more about representing the Great Britain Age-Group Team and competing in British Age Group Championships on the link here.

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