Red-head Russell hoping hair won’t hold him back

Banbridge lad Russell White in action.
Banbridge lad Russell White in action.

Banbridge triathlete Russell White is hoping his ginger hair won’t hold him back in Sunday’s inaugral European Games event.

The former Banbridge Academy pupil is off to Baku to compete in the brand new race alongside Aaron O’Brien. Russell will be the more experienced of the duo with three World Triathlon Series starts to his name along with representing Northern Ireland at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Now he wants to make sure he pulls a top 20 finish out of the hat, despite an unfamilar, and perhaps unfriendly climate for a red-head.

“As a 6ft2 ginger guy, very warm conditions probably don’t suit me as much as most people but there isn’t much I can do about that,” he laughed.

“It’s very exciting to be racing the first ever European Games, hopefully it will be an amazing event.” White commented

“I am ranked 36th out of 58 but I feel that I could be knocking on the door of a top 20 if I execute a solid performance.

“Unfortunately my previous races didn’t quite go to plan due to mechanicals and maybe a bit too much travel and a drop in training, but fortunately I have had the opportunity to get a good block of training in since then to boost my fitness a bit more.”

Asked about the course White said, “It seems OK, nothing out of the ordinary so it will just be a case of putting down a solid effort. As for the condition it might be a different story.”

White’s team-mate O’Brien from Limerick is the 2014 Olympic Distance National Champion and finished 20th in the 2013 Junior World Championships so is no stranger to the big race occasion.

“I’m absolutely delighted to make the team, it’s been something I’ve been targeting since late last year so to get selected has been great, and the hard work is paying off.” Commented O’Brien.

On his preparation for the expected 28 degree heat O’Brien said “We’ve been in the lab cranking up the heat doing hard bike sessions on the SRM, hard run offs on the treadmill, just trying to simulate what it’s going to be like in Azerbaijan.”

“We’ve been working on strategies towards the race and how we’re going to approach it.”

You can watch Russell and Aaron in action at 8.30am on Sunday morning (14th June) live on Setanta Ireland.

Also competing for Ireland is Aileen Reid, who goes into Saturday’s women’s racey ranked sixth on the World Triathlon Series leader board and the top ranked European triathlete.

The former North West Triathlon Club member had a steady start in her first two World Series openers finishing 24th and 15th, but has been in scintillating form of late notching up a seventh, sixth and fourth place finish in the past three World Series races.

In her fourth place finish at the London World Triathlon Series, Reid clocked the second fastest run split of the day, only bettered by ten-times World Series race winner Gwen Jorgenson of the USA.

“I’m really pleased, it’s finally coming together for me.” Reid commented after the race.

“I didn’t think I was going to run that fast. I really feel like I want to be in the top ten in the world and these last three performances are what I’ve really been pushing for.”

With two-time World Champion Helen Jenkins withdrawing from the race citing an ankle injury, Reid’s primary competition is likely to come from London Olympic Gold Medallist, Nicola Spirig along with Olympic Silver Medallist, Lisa Norden.

Spirig has raced sparingly since winning Olympic Gold but made the podium in her last World Triathlon Series outing in Cape Town and is targeting the automatic Rio Qualification slot available to the European Games winner.

Norden, a training partner of Reid, goes into Baku ranked 25th on the start line but that belies her podium potential.