Russell White Equals Best Ever Irish Male Result

Russell Leeds 2016 1

Brilliant Race Comes Days After Career Turning Decision

Russell White has said his record-equalling performance at Leeds World Series Triathlon on Sunday has confirmed to him that he made the right decision to put his teaching career on hold.

White notified his university just last week of his intention not to take up a graduate teaching post that had been held over for him, and instead put all his energies in to pursuing elite-level triathlon.

The decision paid dividends for the 24-year-old White at Leeds where he finished 11th, which along with Gavin Noble's 2009 performance in Yokohama, is the joint best-ever result by an Irish male triathlete.

Confidence

White will now head in to the rest of the season with increased confidence, as he told us immediately after the race.

"I am buzzing, 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 today."

White arrived in Leeds directly from an altitude training camp with his Olympic bound teammates Aileen Reid and Bryan Keane. Last week he spoke about how the camp motivated him to set his sights high and improve his ITU ranking by the time the next Olympic cycle comes around. On the back of Leeds, White has jumped 40 places to 38th on the WTS rankings list.

Leeds 2016 1

HOW THE RACE UNFOLDED

White started the race sandwiched on the starting pontoon between Javier Gomez and Alastair Brownlee and said the British Olympic gold medalist warned him not to get in the way moments before the starting gun.

"As we walked on to the pontoon, 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 emerged from the water as the 11th quickest swimmer but was unable to make contact with a small group of athletes including the two Brownlee brothers that broke away out of T1. Instead White spent much of the 40km bike leg in the main chase pack which also included his High Performance teammate Ben Shaw.

"I felt strong on the bike. 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."

Russell White Leeds 2016 T2

The first real indication that Ireland might have a day to remember was when White emerged from T2 at the front of the chase group.

"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."

Alastair Brownlee Leeds 2016

Browlee Wins Home Race

Up ahead Alastair and Johnny Brownlee were cementing 1st and 2nd places in their home town race. But back in the main pack the race for the remaining positions was most defintely on, something White was reminded of when multiple world champion Javier Gomez came from behind him to launch his ultimately unsuccessful bid for the podium.

"I couldn’t believe it to be sitting on Gomez’s shoulder for more than 2secs 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."

White ended up running a 32:32 on what was a slow and challenging course, helped on by a massive crowd that he says made him feel like he was racing at home.

"It was just unbelievable, it just carried you. the support I was getting was as good as any British athlete, crossing the lone the main feeling was just relief that I held on, I knew I had had the best performance of my life but it doesn’t sink in straight away."

Incredibly, just last week Russell finally gave notice of his intention not to take up a teaching position that had been held for him in Scotland, where he completed his university studies two years ago. The decision meant he was putting all his energies in to triathlon, instead of following the more stable path of full time employment. 

"There were a lot of mixed emotions, 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.'