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Three-year journey to Age-Group World Champion

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Fern Gardner needed just three years to become a world champion after lockdown ignited her love for triathlon.

The 31-year-old thought her sporting days were behind her after a promising junior swimming career ended at university, but a return to running during the pandemic helped relight the fire within. 

The NHS services manager tried out the saddle before adding in her previous swimming experience to complete her first triathlon at Roundhay Park, something she did alongside close friend and fellow Age-Grouper Kate Hutchinson. 

That gave her the bug and the Leeds native continued her rise with 30-34 age group European aquathlon gold in Bilbao in 2022 before adding the world title to her collection in Ibiza eight months later. 

“It was really special,” reflected Gardner. “All the [British] girls set off at the same time and after I crossed the line, within a couple of minutes my friend Amy [Walker] crossed the line and she also won her age group.  

“There are lots of pictures of us embracing at the end, absolutely exhausted and borderline tears because we had both won. 

“Amy and I worked together and went to high school together. I saw what she was doing and thought it looked amazing. I got into it myself and never thought I could do what she was doing, but then we were flying to Ibiza together. 

“It was really nice to have somebody who had a bit of experience but also who I could enjoy the journey with.” 

The Great Britain Age-Group Team consists of close to 3,500 British Triathlon Core and Ultimate members each year, all of whom have qualified to represent the team. 

Gardner’s new journey only began in 2020 but her return to competition was supported by a wealth of experience in the pool after a childhood spent swimming competitively. 

It has meant the readjustment to a gruelling schedule has been easier, as well as giving Gardner strong foundations from which to build on. 

“I used to train nine times a week as a kid, so I am very good at being able to juggle and my body is able to handle the frequency,” she added. 

“I did two or three triathlons in 2021 and got the bug for it. It all came quite naturally. The bike was a bit of a challenge, but my swimming background helped.  

“It has been difficult at times and some weeks I give myself the week off because I am exhausted, especially if work or life is stressful. I got married in October, so I was planning a wedding, I have done a house renovation.  

“Sometimes everything comes to blows and I need a week off. That’s completely normal, it’s a hobby and I have to remind myself it’s fine to take a week off. 

“My partner is very understanding, he shares a passion for sport but we are sometimes like passing ships.  

“I felt like I was going back 10 years. It gave me a lot of pride and a sense of purpose.” 

British Triathlon Core and Ultimate Home Nation members who are a British citizen are eligible to qualify and race for the Great Britain Age-Group Team. Each year there are a series of qualification races and opportunities to represent the team in a variety of disciplines and distances that are only open to members. 

Find out more about the Great Britain Age-Group Team and British Triathlon Home Nation Members by clicking on the buttons below. 

Great Britain Age-Group Team

British Triathlon Membership

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