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Beth Potter’s secret to success? “I’m really bad at quitting!”

A 'no quit' mentality will see Beth Potter seek Olympic success at Paris 2024 - with coach Alistair Brownlee helping to keep her humble.

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Paris Test Event winner. Grand Final winner. Olympic pre-selection and 2023 World Triathlon Champion.

There’s very good reason that British Triathlon’s Performance Director, Mike Cavendish recognised the progress of Beth Potter in 2023 when we spoke to him last week in central London.

I also spoke to Beth at the Savoy Hotel, where she was decked in Team GB Olympic kit for the second time – in a different sport – in her sporting career.

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No overnight success

If you’ve been following Beth’s progress over the last couple of years, her performances this season should not be a surprise – and with less than 12 months until Paris 2024, it’s quite possible that she will start that race as the short-priced favourite.

It’s been quite a journey – one we covered recently with coach Jack Maitland – but ultimately reaching this destination was all in the plan.

“I’m not surprised – I felt like it was coming – but it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s been a long journey, there’s been steps along the way, and setbacks too,” she told us.

As well as winning four (out of eight) of the biggest World Triathlon events in 2023, doing so on the Paris 2024 Olympic course sets things up really well for next July.

“It’s a great course, and we [Ed. with Alex Yee] both performed well on the day on that course which is the most important thing. Also taking a lot away in terms of things we can work on this winter, and elements of the course we now know so it was beneficial to try it this year. And I think we’ll have a really strong relay team too!”

Beth Potter - Team GB launch November 2023
Photo Credit: Team GB

Mirroring the comments that Jack Maitland gave us, it’s the first discipline in Paris that looks set to be the most tricky to execute well in the French capital.

“It’s a very flat course, not too technical on the bike and you pass lots of iconic buildings. The swim in the Seine, you have a current that takes you out quite fast in the first part of the race, then it feels quite long on the way back as you are swimming against the current. It’s difficult to sight too, so in the Test Event all of the women swam through the wrong arch under the bridge, so that’ll be something to really pay attention to next year.

“It was a great course, and I’m really looking forward to going back and racing it again. It was really cool to be there.”

Bet Potter Paris Test Event 2023 swim

The (coach) Brownlee effect

Arriving new into the sport in late 2016, Potter has been on a triathlon fast-track. It takes a long time to build experience – and in that regard, having Alistair Brownlee as one of your coaching team is a real asset.

“He’s been really good, he’s a friend as well. I’ve got a lot of people inputting into my program, but he sees me training most days and can make the call there and then if he sees I’m tired etc. He’s also probably one of the most knowledgeable people in the sport too, so having that person help call the shots – he’s been in those positions himself – is a great help. He’s been there and done it, so it’s good to have him onboard.

“In Paris for example I’d had no sleep going into the race for two nights, and he just said ‘it’s fine, don’t worry about it, you are well rested’; just a sound voice from someone who’s been there before.

“He’s like a role model as well, and is a great person to trust in terms of advice. I mean sometimes he doesn’t get it right, and he’ll admit that himself, but most of the time he’s right. He’ll often remind me in a big session, things like, ‘Flora [Duffy] would exploit you if you do that’, so he does keep me humble as well, for sure!”

‘I’m just really bad at quitting’

Loyal and strong, I suspect, are two words that those close to Beth would likely use to describe her. Coming into the sport from track running, Potter had little in the way of support in her early triathlon days – but those who have helped her through the peaks and troughs, have built a strong bond with her, creating a team she has full faith in.

“I’m grateful for that British Triathlon support now, that’s really helpful. When I first moved, I didn’t have that support, I didn’t have sponsors, and I had a handful of people that backed me and I’m very loyal to those people that I still want to work with them. I see great value in their input, and it’s a personal preference to keep working with them.

“They believed in me when I had nothing and they are still here when I’ve won these big races now, so I’m glad they stuck by me and wanted to see me do well. At times when I had bad races or didn’t believe in myself, having their belief as well helped me push on in training and keep going.”

Jack Maitland and Beth Potter after the Paris Test Event 2023
Beth and coach Jack Maitland after the Paris Test Event

From literally having to buy a bike to start her triathlon career in 2017, Potter’s persistence and belief has proven itself, and when asked about where that was developed, it could be a case of, blame Mum….

“I’m just really bad at quitting – I was never allowed to quit anything when I was growing up! Even when I was 15, my Mum still wouldn’t let me go to track on a Tuesday because I played in this wind band and she wouldn’t let me quit… so I just had to find another night to do the running on the track. I’m just not good at quitting, basically. It’s my Mum’s fault!

“My Dad always jokes that it’s not pushy parents, it’s pushy child. I had to wake them up at five in the morning to take me to swimming, and if I was naughty I was grounded from training. I still found ways to go, but it was always training that was sanctioned from me. I think I’ve always just found a way.”

Positive on Paris, Rio learnings

While friends and family will have a relatively short journey across the English Channel to support next year, Paris will provide another opportunity for Potter to race in major competition close to home, something she is looking forward to.

“I’ve been very lucky in my career across athletics and triathlon to compete at Glasgow 2014, Birmingham [Commonwealth Games] last year, and I did the World Champs on the track in London in 2017. It’s cool to have events in your country or home city, but I think we’ll feel the love in Paris too. It’s just across the water, it’s not far from Britain – I’m sure they won’t be shouting as loud for me as for the French, but I’m sure it’ll be great.”

A more mature athlete now, Beth also has a very different perspective on the opportunity ahead – and is approaching this in a very different way to a painful experience back at Rio 2016.

“I still find Rio quite difficult to think about. It was just such a disappointment, and ultimately it led me to leaving athletics and moving to another sport… so hopefully that doesn’t happen again! It’s taught me a lot – I was very young in Rio, 23/24 years old, and now a lot more experienced I want to make sure I enjoy it and not put too much pressure on myself. It might actually be my last, so I want to fully enjoy every moment of it this time and hopefully do really well.”

Beth Potter wins Paris Test Event 2023 [Photo credit: World Triathlon]
Potter saw off Beaugrand after a thrilling battle at the Paris Test Event [Photo credit: World Triathlon]

Any thoughts that might suggest she doesn’t have high targets on the course can be extinguished however. Her drive and motivation to reach the top is the very reason that she made the bold step in her mid 20’s to seek triathlon success in the first place.

“For me, I love winning… don’t we all. I don’t want to just take part, I want to be on the podium, and I just didn’t think it was possible on the track. I just wasn’t good enough, and I don’t think I ever would have been good enough, it’s very difficult. The Kenyans and Ethiopians are very strong, especially at that distance and I just couldn’t compete with them.”

Based on 2023 at least, Potter is showing the talent and skills to compete with anyone.

John Levison
Written by
John Levison
TRI247's Chief Correspondent, John has been involved in triathlon for well over 30 years, 15 of those writing on these pages, whilst he can also be found commentating for events across the UK.
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