Local triathlete matches best ever Irish performance

Russell White is turning into a real Irish sporting hero. Pic: INPHO/Cathal Noonan
Russell White is turning into a real Irish sporting hero. Pic: INPHO/Cathal Noonan
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Banbridge triathlete Russell White says a big career decision has already paid off.

The former Banbridge Academy pupil just last week turned down the offer of a full-time teaching post in Scotland and just a few days later, he put in a record equalling performance.

At the Leeds World Series Triathlon, he came in 11th, which marks alongside Gavin Noble’s 2009 performance in Yokohama as the best-ever result by an Irish male triathlete.

His decision means he can put all of his energies into his training, which will no doubt be given another huge boost after his fine finish in Leeds.

“I am buzzing,” he told the Triathlon Ireland website. “It hasn’t really sunk in. I knew Edmonton was my best WTS (World Triathlon Series) result at 28th and then I don’t even think I was ever in the 30s in any other race so I was always just trying to beat Edmonton and get in the top 20 but it all came together.”

As regards his job offer, White admitted it was a tough decision:

“There were a lot of mixed emotions,” he said, “I had to send the email to say ‘sorry I am not starting teaching in August’. I had deferred it once but I couldn’t defer it again so this has justified the decision to start training full time.’”

After his performance, White has jumped up 40 places to 38th in the WTS rankings.

White began the race beside two world stars Javier Gomez and Alastair Brownlee. He was even given a warning by the British gold medalist before the race got under way.

“As we walked on to the pontoon,” Russell continued, “Brownlee was in front of me and I just followed him and I left one position to the right. Then Gomez came the other side of me and Alastair told me ‘don’t give me any hassle, he’s going to swim fast!’

White wasn’t too slow himself. He was 11th after the swim and raced in the pack during the 40km bike leg.

“I felt strong on the bike,” he said. “All the other boys weren’t doing anything to push on so that’s why we never got going and the gap to the leaders extended so much. The atmosphere was amazing and it was nearly easier to go to the front of my group because there were so many corners, it was the safest place to be.

“At the end of the bike, my legs were tired coming in to the last lap so I said I’d aim for a good T2 to help my position cause I didn’t know how I’d go, there was a bit of a pile up at transition but I got out first, I was surprised it took so long for anyone to come around me.”

Unsurprisingly, local lads Alistair and Johnny Brownlee were first and second while Russell was left battling for positions with the stars.

“I couldn’t believe it to be sitting on (multiple world champion Javier) Gomez’s shoulder for more than two seconds but that was too fast and I would have overcooked it so I eased off. At 5km I wanted the race to be over but I held on.

“(The atmosphere) was unbelievable, it just carried you. The support I was getting was as good as any British athlete. Crossing the line, the main feeling was just relief that I held on, I knew I had the best performance of my life but it doesn’t sink in straight away.”