Lucy Charles reveals Olympic Games Triathlon ambitions

Chief Correspondent

“I haven’t ruled out the Tokyo Olympics”

It’s not the first time that it’s been suggested or talked about, but in a great video released this week by Zwift, Great Britain’s IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship Silver medallist, Lucy Charles, has spoken about a potential switch to ITU racing in the lead up to Tokyo 2020.

“I’ve definitely thought about doing the Olympic Distance… I’m definitely still young enough to have the speed for it… I haven’t ruled out the Tokyo Olympics”

Lucy would certainly have the support of one industry veteran, Brett Sutton, the coach of Lucy’s greatest rival over the 70.3 and Ironman distance, Daniela Ryf. He is also the coach of Nicola Spirig, Olympic Gold medallist in 2012 and Silver medallist at Rio 2016:

The Olympic Games certainly has a strong attraction for Charles, who had hoped to make it to London 2012 as an Open Water Swimmer. A change of sporting direction shortly after that would prove to be triathlon’s gain.

Is it a realistic target? Well, I think we can safely say that she has swimming ability covered and would, at the very least, be a match for the likes of Jess Learmonth, Flora Duffy and Katie Zaferes who have broken away in the water on numerous instances in recent years and often not been seen again until the finish.

Cycling – some additional technical skills of the draft-legal format would surely be towards the top of her ‘needs’ list, but given the ability she has shown to be able to pick up new sports and excel in those, that shouldn’t be a stumbling block. In truth, we’ve seen World Triathlon Series race winners achieve success in recent years while looking technically awful on two wheels. Flora Duffy is arguably the bike-handling benchmark right now, but Lucy would not have to reach her heights to be successful. In 2018 Daniela Ryf has shown that she is almost certainly the strongest female cyclist we have ever seen in Middle and Long distance triathlon, and during her ITU career Daniela won on the World Triathlon Series in Seoul (2010). Lucy came off the bike with her in South Africa this year. She can ride a bike.

Overall, with the appropriate adjustment in training, I don’t see anything to suggest that she wouldn’t be capable of reaching T2 with the leaders at WTS/World Cup level in relatively short time.

Running – as we know, you need to have run speed to reach the top in ITU racing and that might, at first glance, appear to be the biggest obstacle. However, check out Lucy’s progress over 5km over the last five years, all on the same Gunpowder parkrun course.

  • 2014 – 19:33
  • 2015 – 19:02
  • 2016 – 18:07
  • 2017 – 17:54
  • 2018 – 16:46

What’s interesting to note is that this progress has been achieved while focussed on – and improving ever year – at Middle and Long Distance triathlon. Her best 16:46 5km time was achieved one week before the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. That time would suggest that her current 10km time – run only – would be circa 35 minutes, arguably a little quicker than that given that the parkrun course is held on gravel tracks. That’s a very solid starting position for a just turned 25 year-old who has shown consistent year-on-year improvement – who doesn’t have a decade plus of running pedigree either.

The biggest obstacle to Lucy’s potential thoughts of serious ITU racing may well be the strength-in-depth of the current GB squad. With Vicky Holland, Georgia Taylor-Brown, Jessica Learmonth, Jodie Stimpson, Non Stanford and Sophie Coldwell currently leading the way and with others not far behind, simply getting race experience and access to top level racing could be difficult. Olympic selection begins in 2019 and competition for places to gain access to those selection races will be intense.

If Lucy is serious, the best thing she can do is post-Kona, sit down with the British Triathlon Performance Squad management and explain her ambitions and seek guidance as to where and how she can get ‘in’ to the racing programme as a non-funded athlete. Checking out the schedule for early season ETU Triathlon European Cup races might be a wise move too…

Will we be seeing much more of Lucy Charles on her Specialized road bike rather than the Shiv Tri bike from 2019?!

Lucy Charles Polar Cannes International Triathlon 2018

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John Levison
Written by
John Levison
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