Kate Waugh confessed to being ‘shocked but relieved that her hard work had paid off’ after claiming silver in the junior women’s race at last week’s ITU World Triathlon Championships in Rotterdam. She finished 16 seconds behind Taylor Knibbs of the United States, who retained the title she won in 2016 with a time of 1:01:22, as she posted the quickest run of the race to close down ground. Japanese contender Fuka Sega took bronze with a 27 second margin between her and Kate.
The 18-year-old’s achievement was made all the more impressive by the fact she’d been ill for the week leading into the race. She only decided to compete on the morning of the event and showed true resilience to make the podium in such fine fashion. The second-placed finish helped wrap up an exciting few months for Kate, from Gateshead, who also enjoyed gold medal success at the ETU Triathlon Junior European Championships back in July in Kitzbuhel.
Kate, a recipient of SportsAid awards over the last four years through myLotto24, has surpassed the goals she set herself at the start of 2017. Yet she has found it to be a particularly challenging year due to studying for her ‘A’ Levels and balancing this with her sporting commitments. Kate will begin studying psychology at Leeds University in 2018, having chosen to defer her entry, as she will be travelling to New Zealand and Australia while maintaining her training.
Here, Kate talks about the races in Rotterdam and Kitzbuhel, the unity of the British Triathlon team, her plans for the next year and the impact and support of her parents....
How did you feel when crossing the finish line at the ITU Junior World Championships knowing you’d won a silver medal?
“Crossing the line was one of the greatest feelings. Running down the blue carpet was so surreal because the crowds in the stands were so loud and encouraging. I was definitely shocked but also relieved that all the hard work I’d put in, especially over the summer, had paid off!”
How do you feel that the race went for you from start to finish?
“The swim is always the hardest part of the race in my eyes and I knew it was especially important to have a good swim in this race because of how technical the bike course was. Sometimes I come out further down in the swim as it’s not my strongest discipline but when I saw that I was towards the front of the race it gave me a big confidence boost leading into the rest of the race. I’ve been working on my bike skills a lot this summer so I was prepared for the technical course when it came to the race.”
Taylor Knibbs said you really pushed her hard to make her earn her gold medal – did you feel like you were closing in on her?
“I wasn’t surprised when Taylor came flying past on the bike as she’s so strong. I tried to stick on her wheel but I couldn’t hold on for long. Going on to the run I felt really fresh and just tried to stay relaxed - when I realised I had already closed down some ground in the first 1500m I tried to push on. I could see her ahead of me for the whole of the run which helped me in trying to chase her down. I did feel like I was closing in on her but running in the silver medal position was encouraging enough! Finishing so close behind Taylor was rewarding in itself as she’s such a strong athlete and has had incredible results this year. Being only 15 seconds behind her was such an amazing feeling.”
How had your preparation been in the lead up to the race? Did you feel in good shape?
“I’d actually been unwell in the week leading into the race. I only decided to compete on the morning of race day. The week before that I was feeling fit and healthy. I got really frustrated during race week - purely because I knew how fit I was. When it came to race day it took a bit of a pep talk from my coaches who told me to remember how much work I’d put in during the weeks prior to the race. I didn’t have any expectations for myself on race day because of my illness and as I hadn’t been able to do normal preparations like some easier running and swimming. I had to completely rest but it was perhaps a blessing in disguise as it was one of (if not the) best races ever for me.”
What do you typically eat before a race? Didn’t you do the same this time?
“I like to keep to what I’m used to around a race. Chicken and rice or bolognaise the night before always goes well! And I ALWAYS have porridge with Nutella and banana on a race day. I didn’t feel like I could stomach it on the day of this race so just had a small bowl of cereal. Maybe I should change my pre-race breakfast now!”
How have you found the rest of the year has gone for you so far? What have been your key achievements?
“Honestly, it’s been both the worst and best year of my life! I took my 'A' Levels this year and I put so much pressure on myself to do well in my exams that I got myself (very) stressed! In a way, the training acted as a relief from all that stress at the time. I never felt like it was necessary to compromise any of my training. I set myself some goals at the start of the year to keep myself motivated - one of them was to medal at the Europeans and the other was to get a top five result at Worlds. I definitely surpassed my own expectations having won the Europeans and come second at Worlds. I couldn’t be happier! Winning Europeans was definitely my highlight as the race was not only a shock but a big realisation and relief that I was starting to see the benefits of hard work!”
There seem to be a very close bond between the athletes at British Triathlon. Are you a tight group? Have you had much advice from the seniors?
“I’ve known the athletes that are a similar age to me - junior and some first year Under-23s - for many years now. We’ve been all over the world and experienced so much together. We’re all so similar in terms of our mindsets and have equally had to make sacrifices – like missing social events with school friends - which is why I think we get on and relate to each other so well. We like to think we’re more of a family than friends! I’ve been training in Leeds for the summer and was able to mix in with some of the senior athletes which has been really inspiring. I think the main bit of advice is to never get too caught up in the sport and training. It’s important to remember you’re allowed to have fun and that can be weaved into training. It’s not all serious – life would be boring otherwise!”
What is your typical training week like? How do you split time between the different disciplines?
“I’ve always preferred to mix up my training and not stick to a hard plan week in week out. This keeps it more interesting for me! I tend to swim in the morning and run in the evenings during weekdays. Then at weekends I’ll run in the mornings, and cycling and gym fits in between! The mileage I cover will vary depending on what time of year it is - if I’m leading into a race I’ll drop the volume. During big blocks of training, I’ll try to up the volume and mileage!”
What are your plans outside of triathlon for the next year?
“I’ve decided to take a gap year which means I’ll be having a break from studies. I deferred my entry to Leeds University to September 2018 where I’ll be studying psychology which I’m looking forward to. I’m currently living in Leeds as I love the city and the training set up. I’m travelling to New Zealand in November and then onto Australia in the new year. I’ve always wanted to travel and go to New Zealand and Australia. I’m currently working on trying to be able to maintain a level of training out there while also discovering and exploring a new environment.”
How big a support are your parents and family? How have they helped you since you started in the sport?
“I wouldn’t be anywhere without my parents and family! Their support is so important to me and im so grateful to have parents that are so willing to help me. They have always been there for me in low times….and high! The stress of sport and studies impacts them too. They only want the best for me and to see me happy. They’re so patient and supportive - I don’t know how they put up with me at times! I’m eternally grateful (and lucky!) to have them.”
You’ve been supported by SportsAid through myLotto24 for the last four years – how much of a difference has that help made?
“SportsAid has been such a loyal source to me and I just want to thank them for supporting me over the last four years! Triathlon is an expensive sport - especially traveling to and from national and international competitions. Without their support I would not have had the opportunities to race at such a high level in the sport as I use their investment to cover fuel, flights and accommodation which all adds up! SportsAid’s support has inspired me to continue to grow in the sport as it has opened me up to so much more opportunity!”
What will you do to #SupportTheNext generation of British sporting heroes? SportsAid needs your help to ensure talented athletes like Kate can continue receiving the backing they rely on. Show your support for #SportsAidWeek 2017 by signing up to get involved today.