Non Stanford: Leeds move just champion for queen of triathlon

WORLD'S BEST: Leeds triathlon ace Non Stanford en route to her first ITU World Triathlon Series win in Madrid last year.
WORLD'S BEST: Leeds triathlon ace Non Stanford en route to her first ITU World Triathlon Series win in Madrid last year.
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TRIATHLON SENSATION Non Stanford was lapping up sunnier climes this week.

The Welsh ace – Great Britain’s reigning world champion – is enjoying a two-week training camp in Spain. Yet Stanford admits the city of Leeds has been the most important destination in transforming her glowing career. It means an appearance at next month’s Leeds Sports Awards is a definite with the sporting star “touched” by the warmth of her second home. Stanford, 25, announced herself as a sporting household name last year after being crowned ITU World Triathlon champion in London. And the athlete says her success would not have been possible without relocating to Leeds in 2011.

The triathlete had been training in Birmingham where she attended university but moved north to benefit from the same training received by London 2012 heroes Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee under Jack Maitland and Malcolm Brown. As well as being first and third at London 2013, Alistair was 2009 and 2011 world triathlon champion with Jonathan the 2012 winner. Yet now Stanford is the city’s sole triathlon world champion with the Welsh ace taken aback by her achievements which would only have been possible in Leeds.

“It’s quite surreal,” said Stanford, speaking to the YEP from Spain this week. “Obviously Al and Jon have always been the ones that we are learning from and aspire to and they have always inspired me. But to be honest, moving to Leeds was the turning point in my career and it has been a real fundamental part of my success and a lot of that is learning from Al and Jon and seeing how they train and how hard they work. And also how they deal with everything that comes with being successful – the media attention they get and all the commitments they have, I see how they have dealt with it and that’s really helped me with my commitments.”

Those commitments are plentiful and Stanford’s Spanish training camp will be followed by three weeks training in Leeds ahead of the first leg of the World Series in Auckland in April. Further legs follow in Yokohama, London, Chicago, Hamburg and Stockholm before the Grand Final in Edmonton, Canada at the end of August. And amongst it all comes Stanford’s 2014 priority of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in which the Welsh ace is also hoping to compete in the 5,000m or the 10,000m.

And whether it be in a Welsh vest or a GB one, Stanford says she will also be doing her best for Leeds who the athlete is proud to represent in person at the Leeds Sports Awards on Thursday, February 27. Stanford revealed: “I’ve agreed my attendance to the Leeds Sports Awards I’m really looking forward to it. I’m really honoured to have been nominated and to be even considered for your local sports awards is really nice. I’m really touched by it and ever since I first moved here everyone has been very welcoming. I have been made to feel at home.”

Now a new home beckons – but Yorkshire can breathe a sigh of relief as Stanford is only relocating to a bigger property in the same West Park area of Leeds. The world champion currently shares a flat with two others with the group now looking for something bigger and longer term Stanford’s future is also envisaged in Leeds.

“I’ll definitely be in Leeds for the foreseeable future,” said Stanford. “Being involved in sport you never know what’s going to happen and things can change all of a sudden.

“But at the minute I can’t see myself leaving as it’s working out really well and I’m very settled in Leeds. I’ve got a really good training group and some great friends and I am enjoying living in West Park though we might be moving next month. We’re in a small flat at the minute and when you have got so many bikes and so much training stuff it’s a bit of a squash!”