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British triathlete Helen Jenkins recently did what many deemed impossible—broke American Gwen Jorgensen’s two-year ITU winning streak, en route to victory at the April WTS Gold Coast race. The decisive win secured Jenkins’ third Olympic selection (she also raced in London, finishing fifth, and Beijing, finishing 21st) and proved that, after a lengthy period fraught with injury, the 2008 and 2011 ITU World Champion is back in top form and a strong contender for gold in Rio.
I was the annoying child who wanted to race at everything. I made my younger sister race me all the time, and because she was younger, I always won. As a family we used to play board games on holiday and I remember launching the whole board across the room during one game, as I was losing. I don’t play board games anymore!
I really wanted to be an Olympic swimmer. I was pretty serious about it, although it was never going to happen—I didn’t even make times for national age group swimming. But I think that’s where my desire to be an Olympian came from.
I think most athletes [get nervous at races], but it’s how you control your emotions that dictate how you can race. I have worked with a sports psychologist throughout my career and it has helped me a lot. I control my nerves by focusing on what I can control. If I feel myself spiraling out of control with nerves, I remember that in the grand scheme of things, triathlon doesn’t matter. Whatever happens in the race, I will be fine and life will go on. If you think like that, it can seem a bit ridiculous to get so nervous about running around a city in a funny looking race suit!
Triathlon is a pretty friendly sport, but as much as you are friends, as soon as the dreaded heartbeat music starts—it always plays at the start of ITU races, it’s like they are trying to make us more nervous!—and the gun goes off, it has to be about you and the best you can do.
It’s pretty tough to balance all the roles that [my husband and coach] Marc has. He is my biggest supporter and I know he will help me every step of the way. The toughest time we have been through is the lead-up to the 2012 Olympics when I was injured. I think I cried almost every day. He picked me up and got me through that race. No one will ever know how tough that period was. I think we are so much stronger because of it.
We didn’t want a full-on wedding with hundreds of people and everyone looking at us; we wanted to have fun. So we decided on Disney World. Florida wasn’t too far away, it was warm at that time of year and it was in close proximity to water parks. We got married at 11 a.m. and then the 30 of us that traveled out went to a Disney water park straight after the wedding. It may seem a bit strange, but we had a great day!
Baking is a great way of relaxing for me. I sometimes plan my next bake when I’m training. I usually make two or three things at once and cause a lot of carnage in the kitchen. I do wash up after myself, though!
Disney character: Dug, the dog from “Up.” I wish my dog could have talked!
Collection: My love of strange socks comes from my mum! I always buy her socks and she returns the favor. Flamingo socks are a favorite of mine.
Race destination: San Diego. I love racing in the U.S. and it was pretty cool to race where triathlon started.
Post-long training day meal: Mexican food or something totally British like sausage and mash.
Athletic experience: Qualifying for the Olympics. I don’t think you quite realize how much it means until it happens.
Quote: “Never, never, never give up.” –Winston Churchill. Pretty much sums up my last four years.