Swim, bike and run was showcased on Sunderland seafront with participants ranging from the age of five to 85 taking part in the morning’s participation events before the mixed relays provided a thrilling end to this year’s British Triathlon Super Series Grand Final.
The final race of an action-packed weekend of swim, bike and run saw performance centres and two national teams from France go head-to-head in an enthralling Mixed Relay Cup which saw the quartet of Reuben Trotter, Katie Rodda, Joe Sherman and Jess Fullagar claiming the title for Leeds.
After Trotter, Rodda and Sherman put Leeds into a top-four position heading onto the final leg, Fullagar, who won the British elite title on Saturday, again showed her strength on the bike to not only catch the leading pair of Cardiff’s Issy Morris and France’s Lea Houart but pass the front two and take the race lead on the first of the two bike laps.
After extending the advantage to 40 seconds heading into transition two, Fullagar went onto take the tape for Leeds by a winning margin of 36 seconds, with the battle for the places behind seeing France finish second, closely followed by Cardiff in third.
There was also an exciting race in the Youth/Junior Mixed Relay with the South East team of Oliver Curd, Issy Hayes, Michael Gar and Bethany Cook taking the win in another extremely competitive race.
South East, South West, North East and Scotland were all towards the front for most of the race and after the legs of Curd, Hayes and Gar saw the South East start the final leg second behind South West.
British elite junior champion Cook had taken the race lead during the swim and would then go onto secure the race victory with South West crossing the line second and Scotland third.
Race one in the TriStar 2 and 3 Mixed Relay was won by South East with South West second and North East third. South West went one place better in race two, winning ahead of South Central and East, respectively.
Earlier in the day, over 120 age group athletes competed in the first ever super sprint triathlon qualifier for the opportunity to represent the Great Britain Age-Group Team at next year’s World Super Sprint Triathlon Championships in Pontevedra, Spain.
Athletes get the chance to race twice during the morning with qualification being awarded in each of the age groups. Georgina Clarke and Jonny Brook were the overall race winners in the first race, before victories for Lucy Burn and Mike Brown in race two.
Among those competing was Rio 2016 Olympian Aly Dixon, who was taking part in her first triathlon event after announcing her retirement from international athletics last year.
It’s an athletics career which included representing Great Britain in the marathon at the Olympic Games, World and European Championships and after completing her first triathlon, Dixon said: “I was probably more nervous today than when I was standing on the Olympic start line. I didn’t know what to expect, but I actually surpassed the time I expected in the swim, so I was pleased with that on the first one.
“There was a lot of support out on the course, it’s great seeing so many people, it’s been absolutely buzzing down here this weekend and it’s a fantastic event for Sunderland. There’s no better place to be on a day like this. I enjoyed it in that sick sort of really hurts like hell kind of way. I want to do some more, there’s lots of room for improvement.”
Also competing was 85-year-old Peter Norman, who has been a regular in the GB Age-Group Team and is the current world sprint duathlon champion in the 85-89 male age group.
“I’m a person of habit,” Norman said. “I run three miles every morning regardless of what it’s like outside I’ll do it. I do club cycling time-trials every week and also my local 10k races.
"I only started running when I was 50 and it was a few years later when I did my first triathlon and for as long as I’m physically able to I’ll keep on doing it, it’s great to be involved in it.”
From the oldest competitor of the day to the youngest participants with The BIG Swim Bike Run Family seeing families take their first steps into the world of swim, bike and run during a 50m swim and 1km run.
Danielle Hanson decided to sign her family up along with her brother Steven Hoggett and his family, with their ages ranging from five to 12-years-old. Speaking after crossing the line, Danielle said: “We’ve never done anything like this before and when I saw it advertised, I put it in the family group chat and said who wants to do it and here we are.
“It was really good, really exciting, they’ve never done any sport outside the school playground so it really pushed some of us, but it was a brilliant experience especially as we could all do it together.”
Her brother, Steven added: “It’s such an incredible event, to be able to do this altogether is amazing, it keeps us really tight-knit and that’s really powerful for me.”
Lynndsey Long took part in the event with her eight-year-old daughter Scarlett and said: “I wanted to get my daughter involved and sharing that experience of multisport and this event was the perfect opportunity to do that.
“It’s been a fantastic event and we’ve had an absolutely fantastic time. I want to demonstrate being a good role model to her and I think it’s really important to be active.”
The British Triathlon Super Series Grand Final also included a BIG Swim Bike Run Adult event – a 100m swim, 6km bike and 2km run.
Completing her first triathlon was a proud moment for Helen Rickstraw as she crossed the line with her arms aloft alongside her brother Mark Howarth.
“I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer on New Year’s Eve last year,” Rickstraw said on her reasons for signing-up. “I underwent major surgery in February, I had a full hysterectomy, my large intestines were removed, and I have since had six rounds of chemo.
“I started swimming in May to help with my recovery and my strength. When I told my doctor that I had been swimming and cycling, he suggested I do a triathlon and I thought it was hilarious. Then everyone said there’s a triathlon in August so here I am with my brother who said he would do it with me.
“I was always fit before my surgery, obviously it’s taken it out of me this year. It was a little bit harder than I thought it was going to be, but I did the whole lot, I didn’t stop, so I am proud of myself.”
Lauren Flaxen used to live within a stone’s throw of the start line and after crossing the line said: “I grew up here, I live in Fulwell, I do a lot of my training around here. I grew-up down in the marina and I ran right past my mum and dad’s street so that was really nice, saw a few of the neighbours, got a few good cheers.
“It’s really good for the city and I think events like this sets a good example and encourages more people to get involved in the sport. I wanted to do this event because I wanted to get my children into it and it just show that anything is possible.”
Joined by her friend, Linda Mudford said: “I have always wanted to try a triathlon, but I have been really nervous. When I heard this was on my doorstep and I thought if I’m going to try one then let it be here in a really comfortable and friendly environment, I loved it.”
Councillor Graeme Miller, Leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “It’s been a fantastic weekend. There’s been a real buzz around the event, with more than 750 participants aged from five to 85 and upwards taking part in an action-packed two days of racing along our beautiful seafront.
“We’re delighted so many people have come along to cheer the athletes on, enjoy the family activities in Roker Park and soak up the atmosphere. What was also thrilling was to see so many local families and individuals taking part in the BIG Family Swim Bike Run and the individual Swim Bike Run events for those new to Swim Bike Run.
“Attracting the Super Series Grand Final to Sunderland for the first time this year is a huge coup for the city and we’re equally thrilled to be working alongside British Triathlon in planning towards hosting a prestigious World Triathlon Championship Series event next year which will see the world’s best triathletes competing in Sunderland.
“This is very much about working in partnership with British Triathlon to create opportunities for people to be active and take advantage of our fantastic city and the wonderful coastline and green spaces we have on our doorstep. We hope that this and other major sporting events such as the Tour of Britain on 6 September will inspire more people to take up swimming, cycling and running as part of our exciting programme of swim, bike, run activities over the next few years.”
View the full British Triathlon Super Series Grand Final Sunderland day two results here.