A RECORD five triathletes from Stratford AC qualified for their respective age-group teams to represent GB at the European Championships in Israel.
A quartet were making their international debuts but Emma Bexson returned with a medal for the second year running.
The Red Sea resort of Eilat provided a fine venue for three days of racing, with the salty water providing plenty of buoyancy in the swim and warm, dry weather giving pleasant racing conditions.
The one downside was a powerful headwind on all days for the first half of the out-and-back bike route, but at least it meant a flying return journey on the second half!
First up on the Friday morning were the standard distance age-groupers with Rob Ford (30-34) amongst the first wave into the water for the 1500m single lap swim.
He was followed by Graham Black (35-39) and Keith Hawkes (50-54).
Ford went on to take the line in 2 hours 16:12 to finish 12th of 26, pretty remarkable given he was suffering with a chest infection, and his excellent 40K bike split of 62:57 certainly showed where his strength lies.
Black is another versatile and powerful athlete and he followed a decent swim with a storming bike (67:29) and then grinding out the 4-lap 10K run.
This resulted in a total time of 2:21:18 and an impressive position of 19th out of 41.
Hawkes clocked 2:24:25 for 11th out of 31 after losing time on the bike but gaining a couple of places on the run (41:20).
The following day was the turn of the sprint triathletes, with Bexson and Yvonne Caswell – making her international debut like the three SAC boys – going for gold in the same 35-39 age group.
Bexson (1:18:40) grabbed silver last year, but with some strong competitors coming up into her age group this year the pocket rocket had to produce a fine 5K run (21:49) to grab a fantastic bronze medal.
Caswell spent the winter recovering from major disc surgery and just to appear on the Israeli beach start line was a remarkable achievement.
A strong 750m swim (13:19) would have settled the nerves immediately and a total time of 1:29:52 meant the inspirational Shipston teacher finished in a more than respectable 13th place.
With Playtime Productions’ Dai Gittens also performing well in the male sprint race (50-54), Eilat became Stratford-upon-Sea for a couple of days!
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