Elizabeth Stewart – European Sprint Triathlon Championships, Dusseldorf 25th June 2017

Elizabeth (or Lizzie as she is also known), first became involved with triathlons in 2011 when Wendy Staines, the sports teacher at Holmwood House organised one in the school grounds. Wendy is an experienced triathlete and duathlete herself competing at international levels at varying distances.

Wendy moved to New Hall School in Chelmsford and Elizabeth joined the Junior Triathlon Club that Wendy ran, called Discovery Tri. Shortly afterwards, our local club (Hadleigh Hares) started a Junior Triathlon section and so Elizabeth was training twice a week, on top of swim sessions with Hadleigh Dolphins and athletics with Hadleigh Hares. Elizabeth competed at Junior level for five years, as well as winning recognition at the 53-12 Cross Country League.

Once Elizabeth left Holmwood House school to join Ipswich school, she realised that it was no longer feasible to stay with Discovery Tri. This was a hard decision because it would mean losing the coaching sessions with Wendy and Nigel Hampton, who was Laura Trott’s original cycle coach. Therefore she joined Ipswich Tri as they had a well-established Junior section, with a very experienced coach, Isabel Smith. At the same time, Elizabeth wanted to improve her swimming and joined Ipswich Swim Club. However, Elizabeth found the very early morning sessions, along with a new school regime, tough going and realised she needed to rethink her goals. At this stage, swimming was her best discipline and Elizabeth won many trophies and medals at Club level as well as competing at the County Championships.

At this point, Elizabeth had very few girls to compete with in the local area and she was becoming more adept on her bike. Isabel invited Elizabeth to participate in a local series of races called the Trinity Park Cycle Series. In the first year, Elizabeth raced with Junior boys and won the girls event. The following year, Elizabeth raced with the women and, although she found it hard going, she
started to develop a love for racing.

This then led to joining Lee Valley Youth Cycle Club, which have a number of girls of a similar age for Elizabeth to train with. In her first year (last year), Elizabeth competed at a couple of events and although she did well, she realised that she lacked the technical bike skills required for road racing as opposed to triathlons. However, she was invited to represent the Eastern Region at the Youth Grand Prix which was part of the Prudential Ride London Festival. Elizabeth led the pack for a while but unfortunately did not fully anticipate the sprint finish. Better luck next time!

In the meantime, Elizabeth was continuing her triathlon training and, and once she had turned 15, started to compete in adult events. These distances seem to suit Elizabeth better as they are more endurance type events. Elizabeth won several awards for her age group, and has now defended her title at Stradbroke twice. Stradbroke was meant to be her first adult event but as her parents also compete, she decided to have a go at a European Qualifier, which was held at the National Watersports Centre in Nottingham. To qualify for the GB Age Group Team, a competitor needs to have a time of 120% of the winner in the same age group category. As the age group spans five years and so the oldest could be almost 20 and Elizabeth was just 15, this was a tall order. However, Elizabeth managed to get a result of 112%. In addition, there are only 20 places available offered on a roll down basis. This meant that it was not an automatic qualification as there were two other qualifying races, and so she had to wait until the final race results to find out if she had won a place at Dusseldorf. Nail biting times!

Thankfully, her hard work (particularly with the bike discipline) paid off. Elizabeth was finally offered a place last October. A long time to wait until the Championship race to be held the following June. Elizabeth continued with various club sessions but the pressure of the forthcoming GCSE’s started to build. Training started to be affected. Then, just as the plan was about to peak, her brother (Chris) was critically ill and admitted to hospital. Family life was disrupted for the whole of May, but Elizabeth managed to hold it together and focussed on what she could do, not worrying what she couldn’t.

Elizabeth had planned to test her kit & race strategy at Wattisham Sprint Triathlon but, unfortunately, that was cancelled. Therefore, she entered two other local races at the last minute. The first one was the inaugural Ipswich Triathlon, run by Island Races, where she was second female overall. The second event was in Harwich and she won her age group and came sixth female overall. These two events really boosted her confidence, especially as she beat her Dad for the first time at Harwich!

The GCSE’s finished on the Monday before the race and there was the small matter of the school prom on the Thursday before the family left home in the early hours of Friday morning. Talk about a busy week (and priorities!).

The event itself went well, and Elizabeth has written a separate article on her experience. Needless to say, we are very proud of her achievements to date.  She learnt many lessons in the run up, and during, her time in Dusseldorf which, we hope, will hold her in good stead for the future, especially as she has already started training for the next qualifying event to represent Team GB in Glasgow in 2018.

The final results for Dusseldorf are as follows:

Discipline Time Age Group Position (18 finished; 1 DNF) Female All Age Groups Position (291 finished; 2 DNF; 1 DSQ)























8 (5th GB)


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