Great Britain showed off their staggering strength in depth as a depleted mixed relay team stormed to silver at the AJ Bell 2022 World Triathlon Championship Series Leeds, writes Josh Graham in Leeds.
Deprived of Olympic gold medallists Jonny Brownlee and Alex Yee after they crashed out of Saturday’s individual race, Georgia Taylor-Brown - the only remaining participant from Tokyo - led a quartet that featured Sophie Coldwell, Tom Bishop and Grant Sheldon to second place behind Germany.
Bishop produced a solid first leg to stay in touch with the leaders before Coldwell fought to the front to give Sheldon a four-second lead over Germany.
But Britain’s rivals roared back into contention with Taylor-Brown entering the water 45 seconds down in fourth, however, undeterred she reeled in her second silver in two days ahead of France.
Taylor-Brown, 28, said: “It felt incredible to lead the team home and it’s amazing to get on the podium. The crowds around the oval on the run were ridiculous. It just gives you that little bit extra, you can’t hear yourself breathe, so you can push a bit further.
“The boys really stepped up, it’s hard. We’ve been preparing for a few weeks knowing that we were going to do the relay. So, to come in at the last minute, it changes everything for you and it’s amazing that they have managed to do that.
“We are quite lucky that in the Great Britain squad we can just chop and change the team around and still come on the podium, so we are very fortunate.”
Bishop, 30, admitted he felt the pressure as both he and Sheldon were unexpectedly ushered into the line-up after Brownlee broke his elbow and Yee, who congratulated his teammates at the finish line, escaped serious injury but was advised to rest.
“I was so nervous starting it off, I just had to step up. I did what I could, got in the race and handed over to Sophie just within grasp of the front,” explained Bishop, who finished 33rd in the men’s race, seven places higher than Sheldon.
“The pressure was on. The girls came up with really great results yesterday and me and Grant were slightly disappointed but we just took the opportunity to step up and do it, it was a bit of redemption.”
Sheldon, 27, added: “I’ve not done a lot of relays in my career but it’s special to be a part of it for Great Britain. To have two such strong girls in the team, you’re just trying to keep them in the race!”
Sunday’s race was the first time the mixed relay has ever been staged in Leeds and also marked the beginning of the man-woman-man-woman format, leaving Coldwell in uncharted territory.
The 27-year-old explained: “I found it very different, in all the relays I’ve ever done even from youth level, I’ve always done the first legs but Georgia and I had a bit more time to prepare, so we knew what we were getting ready for.”
Coldwell took the spot filled by Jess Learmonth - who missed the entire weekend with a hip injury - at the Olympics, and after claiming bronze in Saturday’s individual race for the second year running went one better with the team.
She added: “I think my legs are suffering a bit from yesterday but you always find something a bit extra for a relay.
“I definitely wasn’t expecting to get on the podium yesterday and getting on today was a complete bonus as well.”
The AJ Bell 2022 World Triathlon Leeds made its return to the city for the sixth time and if you’ve been inspired to take part visit https://www.britishtriathlon.org/get-involved/what-is-triathlon