As season finishes go it could not have gone much better for University of Stirling Maths student Marc Austin, who won Silver in last weekend’s Under-23 Triathlon World Championships in Edmonton, Canada.
Not only was it the best result yet for the 20-year-old from Scotstoun, who a year ago won a World Junior Silver medal, it was one of those rare triathlon occasions where all three of his disciplines were on song.
“I've had a few races where I've done bits right, but to nail the whole race was pretty satisfying,” said Austin who was level with Dorian Coninx until the final two kilometres of the run when the Frenchman launched his decisive break.
“I just lacked a little bit of that killer instinct to win the race. But it's a really good confidence booster for me to finally this year put a good race in and I know there is more to come.”
It was a fine end to a season which had not started well for Austin. In February, he suffered a foot problem which took a while to diagnose as a stress fracture. Having never been injured before, coping with it was a new experience that knocked him off course for a while. But 2014 had its memorable moments. In the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games he stuck with the Brownlee brothers through the swim and on the three-man bike breakaway.
That effort cost Austin dear and he faded in the run to finish 22nd. But Gold medallist Alistair Brownlee’s words afterwards should encourage him. “Marc is probably one of the only British athletes for years who swam and biked all the way with me and Jonny. He was working pretty hard and I think he’s one for the future.”
The future does indeed look promising for Austin whose ultimate aim is to compete in an Olympic Games. It’s too early in his career to declare himself a contender for the Rio 2016 bound team, but he will certainly grab the opportunity if it presents itself.
“Obviously Rio is a dream and up until this year I’ve not really thought about it because my focus has been the Glasgow Games,” he admitted. “I'd love to go but there's a lot of stiff competition within Britain. Next year I will race as well as I can and hopefully be a lot stronger than I was this year. Who knows, I'll do as best as I can and if I get put in the mix that's great.”
Due to start his fourth year at the University of Stirling, Austin is considering deferring his spring term in order get the best start to the 2015 season.
He said: “It does make a difference in the spring as to how much training and racing you can do. I want to give it a shot and see how fit I can get and what I can achieve if I'm not doing studies and I’m a full-time athlete for a bit.”
Austin is one of 160 students to be supported by Winning Students, Scotland’s national sports scholarships for student athletes. Through the programme over the past three years he has received funding support and the academic flexibility required to perform at the highest level in sport and studies.
“Winning Students have supported me since I started university,” he said. “The funding helps me pay for my rent and towards the cost of training and competition. If I decide to defer a semester then Winning Students helps make it a smoother process. Because there is such a good link between the sport and university it takes the stress away. Hopefully I can become a full-time professional and I'm getting a bit closer to that and in the meantime it helps a lot to have the support of Winning Students.”