Two University of Stirling Mathematics students are one step closer to competing at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games after a stunning showing in London.
Third year students Marc Austin and Grant Sheldon finished second and third respectively after a thrilling sprint to the line at the World Junior Triathlon Grand Final at Hyde Park.
The duo will now make the transition to the Olympic distance format in a bid to earn selection for the Glasgow games next July. That will effectively mean doubling their efforts as the Olympic distance comprises a 1,500m swim, 40km bike ride and 10km run - double the distance of the Junior sprint competition.
“I don’t think I can double my workload, but maybe just squeeze in a few more miles on the run,” joked 19-year-old Austin, from Scotstoun. “It’s not so much about doing more training, but about learning the tactics of the race over that distance.
“Before the weekend I had not let myself think about the Commonwealth Games, I just stayed focused on doing well in London. Now that’s done, all my attention over the next nine months will be focused on qualifying for Glasgow 2014.
“It was quite surreal to have two people who train together on a podium, let alone at the World Championships. It’s been great to have the competition from a team-mate as it really keeps you on your toes. It was nice to finish our junior racing on a high.”
For Sheldon, it was particularly sweet, having overcome a series of demoralising injuries in recent years. Everything from a damaged elbow to a broken thumb and shin trouble has scuppered the 19-year-old’s hopes of standing atop an international podium before London.
He said: “The last time I was injured I found it difficult, but I just told myself to get through it without fussing. It has been a continual progression to recover to full fitness and it was cool to finally execute a race and do what I knew I can do. I was quite relaxed and felt good going into the run and I actually didn’t realise it was just the three of us out in front until one kilometre to go.
“To medal at this race was part of the selection process for the Commonwealth Games and so it puts your name out there for the selectors. I’m looking forward to the step up to Olympic distance now – I’m not too worried about the change of distance as I can remember how long the junior distance first felt and now it feels like a sprint.”
Sheldon hails from Hamilton, just a stone’s throw from the Glasgow 2014 triathlon venue Strathclyde Park. Before he can dream of donning his wetsuit there, he and Austin will dip their toe in the water over the new distance at the 2013 Alicante ITU Triathlon World Cup on Sunday 29 September.
And the pair don’t need to look too far for inspiration on how to make the step up, with Stirling graduate David McNamee finishing 16th in the World Triathlon Series Rankings whilst Sports Coaching student Natalie Milne made the top 50 in her first senior season.
Milne, Austin and Sheldon all receive triathlon scholarships from Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence and from national scholarships Winning Students. The trio train at the National Performance Centre on campus, run by triathlonscotland.
Assistant National Coach Blair Cartmell said: “To have two Scottish athletes who train together, live together and study together both on the podium of a World Junior Championship is a simply outstanding result. It is an extremely high level of racing and to perform the way they did in front of a home crowd makes it even more special. They both work so hard and thoroughly deserve the success they have achieved.”