Triathlon: Leeds’s own Benson targets a golden year INTERVIEW

Gordon Benson.
Gordon Benson.
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WITH Alistair Brownlee recently crowned world champion for the second time and younger brother Jonathan waiting in the wings – the future of Leeds and British triathlon is quite clearly in safe hands.

And there’ll likely be a third Leeds ace joining the race for international glory – New Farnley’s Gordon Benson eyeing gold at the World Junior Triathlon Championships in a year’s time.

Benson, just 17, has recently returned from this year’s World Junior Championships in Beijing where he finished 10th at the same venue which saw the older Brownlee brother regain his 2009 world crown.

And it’s little wonder that Benson is turning out to be triathlon force with The Grammar School at Leeds student having also excelled at cross-country, track running and in swimming in which his sporting career actually began as a youngster with the City Of Leeds Swimming Club.

Succeed

Even now Benson continues to succeed on all fronts – the teenager national under-17s 3,000m champion in both 2009 and 2010 and having also represented Team GB over the same distance at the European Youth Olympic Festival in Turkey this year where he claimed silver.

Then there is the continued cross country glories with Benson having represented his country in a home international last year.

But the teenager recognises it is GB triathlon which is currently booming and it is in the unique mix of swimming, running and cycling where his focus will now lie.

“There’s a lot of triathletes that don’t also race on the track but I love it on the track though this season I have cut it down a lot,” he said.

“And I think triathlon will be the ultimate place where I’ll end up, just because of how things fall.

“There’s a big African domination in the track events whereas in the triathlon – as a GB athlete I’ve got a really good chance.”

Integral to the increased chance of GB triathlon success are the Brownlees who Benson himself trains with and admits act as the perfect mentors to his own young triathlon career.

And should Benson’s success continue it is not inconceivable that one day three of the world’s top triathletes might not only be British, but also from Leeds.

Benson says there is no real secret to the city’s success in the sport – merely fine training facilities and a real desire to spur each other on.

“I just think the training atmosphere is really good here,” said Benson, who is a relatively late switcher to triathlon and whom two years ago did not even own a bike.

“Training here is really enjoyable and it’s not like a chore to do it.

“I have to get up early sometimes in the morning but I do it because I want to do it and I know this can get me trips around the world and get me in positions that I’d never get into by not doing sport, so I want to work really hard to get that.

“I train alongside the Brownlees which is so motivational because ultimately I want to be where they are now.

“They work very hard and it’s paying off for them so it makes me realise that if I put the effort in now, hopefully it will pay off.”

Combine

Benson certainly puts in the hours and must combine his constant training before and after school with the Leeds City Athletics Club and the City of Leeds Swimming Club with his A-level studies at The Grammar School at Leeds where biology, chemistry and unsurprisingly PE are his subjects of choice.

But amongst the hectic schedule the Halifax-born athlete always makes sure there is time for his pals.

“I make time to socialise and see my friends,” said Benson, who also won gold in this year’s Tours ETU Youth Triathlon European Championships boys relay.

“I do have to go training a lot but if it’s all training – all work and no play – I don’t think I’d enjoy it. I’m also a Leeds United fan but I don’t really have time to get to the games though I always look for the result and I just enjoy watching the football.”

It is, though, in triathlon that Benson’s ultimate future lies and while London 2012 will come too soon he admits there is every reason to be hopeful of a place on the plane for Rio 2016.

“2012 just falls too soon for me personally and I’ll just be happy to watch it and cheer on GB,” he said.

“Hopefully it will happen for me in the future. The next big thing for me will be the World Junior Triathlon Champs again and hopefully I can do better than 10th this time.

“The good news is that the juniors is under-20s and this was my first year as a junior with only being 17. Next year’s is in New Zealand and then in my last year as a junior it will be in London in 2013.”

Do that and he will almost certainly be on the plane to Rio, though level-headed Benson is keeping his feet very much on the ground. At least for now that is.

“The Olympics are in Rio in 2016 but I’ve not thought too hard about it,” he said.

“But it’s a live goal and I’d love to go. It would be a great opportunity but I’d rather focus on the short term now and work hard.

“Hopefully the rewards will come at the end of it.”

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