World Triathlon Championships: Russell White ready to continue fight for Olympic dream

By Nigel RinglandBBC Sport NI
'I'm a racer at heart' - Russell White ready for return
World Triathlon Championships
Venue: Hamburg, Germany Date: Saturday, 5 September Start time: 14:40 BST
Coverage: Live on the BBC Sport website and the Red Button

2020 has been more of a rollercoaster ride for triathlete Russell White than many other athletes.

His first priority would have been to secure qualification for the Olympic Games in Tokyo but that looked to have suffered a fatal blow when he broke his collarbone in a cycling crash at the start of March.

With just two months of racing remaining until the two-year Olympic qualifying process was to have finished and White in a battle to make the top 55 places, it appeared his dreams would be dashed.

However only a few days later along came coronavirus lockdown. Triathlon, like every other sport, had to shutdown its season.

The Olympic standings were frozen with White clinging to the 55th and final Tokyo place.

That is where he remains as he prepares to compete at the first major race in six months.

As the sole survivor of the year's pandemic-hit World Triathlon Series calendar, this weekend's race in Hamburg also becomes a standalone World Championships, decided just last week by the sport's governing body.

Russell WHite
White is currently in possession of the 55th and final Olympics place

While this has irked many triathletes from the southern hemisphere who can't travel to Germany because of quarantine and other restrictions, it is still a high quality field that includes double Olympic gold medallist Alistair Brownlee and younger brother Jonathan, France's defending champion Vincent Luis and Spanish former world champions Mario Mola and Fernando Alarza.

"I just want get back racing. I've been doing the training to keep things ticking over in lockdown and I never eased off thinking this was going to be a washout of a year," explained White.

"Lockdown has actually brought some consistently to training as you haven't had to chase races. I'll stand on that start line and put my best foot forward. No-one knows where they are at the moment and I feel in good shape."

Tokyo dream a decade in the making

The Banbridge triathlete hopes to equal or better his 15th place finish at the World Series Grand Final in Rotterdam three years ago, to date his best race at the very highest level although he did take a silver medal at the ITU World Cup triathlon in the Czech Republic in 2018.

The 28 year-old, who has represented Northern Ireland at two Commonwealth Games, remains focused on making his Olympics debut in Japan next year but constantly lives with the stress of not knowing how the next few months will unfold.

"I thought after breaking my collar bone in an Olympic year that was it but then as it turned out there couldn't have been a better year for it to happen. Then it was all about recovering from the injury during lockdown."

World Triathlon has yet to unveil their plans for next year, unsure of how the pandemic will develop over winter.

They will hope to have more races that go towards qualification before the May cut-off date.

This weekend's racing will not count because because many top triathletes cannot travel to compete and there is a scenario that if no more races can be held before next May the current standings will count and White will fulfil a long held ambition.

"In a selfish way I'd nearly like it if everything stayed so unstable and the qualification wouldn't open again and that would be the deal sealed but we'll just have to wait and see what happens in the New Year and be prepared for it," he said.

"For me it's been nearly a decade of doing the sport with the goal of becoming an Olympian and building towards Tokyo. It's always been a dream and one I hopefully will achieve in 2021."

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