This year, Sam Dickinson became Commonwealth champion when he won the Gold medal in the triathlon Mixed Team Relay alongside his England teammates Alex Yee, Sophie Coldwell and Georgia Taylor-Brown, with the event in Birmingham marking his Commonwealth Games debut. As a triathlete for Great Britain, further Mixed Team Relay medals for Sam have included Gold at the World Triathlon Championships in Hamburg, Silver at the World Triathlon Championships in Montreal and Gold at the 2021 European Triathlon Sprint and Relay Championships. Sam won an individual Bronze medal at the European Triathlon Cup in Coimbra and he returned to international racing for the first time since the pandemic started at last year’s World Triathlon Championship Series in Leeds, and he was also the travelling reserve for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Catching up with Sam, he talked to us about becoming the Commonwealth champion at this year’s Birmingham Commonwealth Games, winning Gold at the World Triathlon Championships in Hamburg and returning to international racing for the first time since the pandemic started at the 2021 World Triathlon Championship Series in Leeds.
What was it like making your Commonwealth Games debut in Birmingham in July and how was it representing Team England in front of a home crowd?
Surreal – I watched the 2002 CWG in Manchester so, 20 years later, to be the one being watched felt like an immense achievement. The home crowd were so loud and seeing all the young aspiring athletes cheering me on filled me with pride. I hope I’ve inspired them to go on to great things!
You won Gold in the Mixed Team Relay with your teammates Alex Yee, Sophie Coldwell and Georgia Taylor-Brown, how was it becoming Commonwealth champions and how did you find the experience competing in the race?
We were the favourites before the race with two of the best athletes in Alex and G. Alex had the best start giving over a 20-second lead and Sophie extended the lead too. The feeling of waiting in the call up tent before my leg was very nerve-racking but one which I cherished! I was happy to nail my leg and give G a lead to bring it home. Singing Jerusalem on the podium will be an experience I’ll never forget!
How did you prepare for your individual triathlon race and what did you enjoy most about competing in Birmingham?
I had the job of helping Alex get on the podium so there wasn’t much pressure on me, to be honest. But I prepared as if I was racing for myself and keeping it like any other race is important. The course in Birmingham was great, fast swims and a hilly run made for exciting racing.
What was it like winning Gold in the Mixed Team Relay at the World Triathlon Championships in Hamburg in July?
This was extra special as it was a GBR ‘B-team’ and we weren’t the favourites by no means. However, everyone nailed their leg and we delivered the win. Hamburg is a special race with a strong history in triathlon and a world famous Beer Shower on the podium, so to be a part of it was special!
Can you tell us about your time competing in Montreal at the World Triathlon Championships in June, which saw you win Silver in the Mixed Team Relay?
Yes, this was a very important race for GBR as we had to win or finish 2nd to France to secure our Olympic spot for 2024. Jonny Brownlee crashed out of Leeds so he was unavailable to race the relay so I got my chance to race in the A-team. I didn’t have my best race but could hold on and give GTB a chance to get back in the race and secure the silver to France so job done!
How was it competing at the European Triathlon Cups in Quarteira, Caorle and Coimbra earlier this year and what was it like winning the individual Bronze medal in Coimbra?
These third tier races are so useful to gain race experience and test the legs after winter training. Getting on the podium is also great to practice racing at the front end of races, as when you move up to WTCS races, the chance to race for the win seldom comes unless you’re a pre-race favourite.
You competed at the 2021 European Triathlon Sprint and Relay Championships, where you won Gold in the Mixed Team Relay, what was this like?
This was another development team GBR raced with and goes to show the strength in depth of British Triathlon. Another European Gold Medal is always good to add to the pal-mares!
How did you find the experience getting back to major international competitions after events were cancelled due to the pandemic when you competed at the 2021 World Triathlon Championship Series in Leeds?
It was amazing to have crowds and races back, especially a home race for me like Leeds! The noise and atmosphere were phenomenal, a sound I’ll never forget going solo off the front of the race and giving the fans something to cheer!
Having had a successful career as a junior triathlete, do you have any favourite memories from your time competing at junior level and how did you find transitioning to senior competitions?
As a junior, I was very lucky to be at the front of all of my races, it taught me how to race and win races, but my favourite memories come from the squads we took to races like Kitzbuhel and the prep camp in Florida for Junior Worlds in Cozumel.
What are some of your stand-out highlights from your triathlete career so far?
Obviously the CWG Gold medal, however, my time as the travelling reserve to the Tokyo Olympics taught me a lot about major champs and dealing with pressure. My first World Cup win in 2019 in Karlovy Vary was a big milestone to set me up for senior WTCS competitions.
How did you get into triathlon and is it something you always wanted to do?
A county swimmer and strong XC runner in my youth set me up well for triathlon, my brother wanted to give it a go so naturally I’d follow him into it. We both played every sport as kids and hockey was our best sport, to be honest, but I knew I wasn’t good enough to play higher than county level. Triathlon came rather late for me, however, I progressed quickly to the top of national races and soon had my first GB vest.
What is a typical training day for you and how different is it in the lead-up to a major competition?
We train up to three times a day around 30 hours a week. We have a variance of easy and hard days across all three sports. Hopefully nothing changes up to a major comp to keep everything as normal as possible, but naturally volume will decrease and focus on race intensity to peak for the comp.
Have you been given any advice over your time as a triathlete so far that has stuck with you and what advice would you give a young triathlete starting out?
CONSISTENCY IS KEY. Best advice I’ve been given. Triathlon is an attritional sport and naturally high volume is key to race well but, for me, it’s taken a long time to get robust enough to handle high volumes with intensity. I’ve missed so much training through injury which I’ll never get back. I wish I decided to reduce my training volume and intensity to stay healthy and constant.
How do you like to spend your time away from sports?
I play my guitar and enjoy playing team sports from my youth I can no longer play being a professional athlete.
Do you have any competitions coming up that you can tell us about or that you are targeting?
Now it’s all about Olympic qualification – over the next two years I need to be ranked in the top 30 in the world to secure my spot!
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