The two cities maybe nearly six thousand miles apart geographically, and even further apart culturally and spiritually, but a unique combination of factors mean that Leeds will be more than over-represented during this year’s Olympic games in Rio.
The University of Leeds, with its world-class sports science facilities, is setting the standard in the training and development of athletes in lots of sporting disciplines – most notably triathlon. All of the British Mens Triathlon team at the Olympics in Rio this year have come from the University of Leeds, cementing its global reputation for the quality of its training and facilities.
This year, five of the six members of the elite British triathlon squad are from the Leeds Triathlon Centre:
- Alistair Brownlee (Sports Science and Physiology (2010), University of Leeds alumnus and Leeds Triathlon Centre )
- Jonathan Brownlee (History (2012), University of Leeds alumnus and Leeds Triathlon Centre )
- Gordon Benson (Nutrition (2016), current University of Leeds student and Leeds Triathlon Centre )
- Non Stanford (Leeds Triathlon Centre)
- Vicky Holland (Leeds Triathlon Centre)
- Helen Jenkins (the only member of the team not from Leeds)
A total of 96 triathletes – a mixture of elite level and development squad athletes – have trained at the Leeds Centre. The group is mainly British, with several Eastern European Athletes competing in Rio also training at the centre.
“The facilities and the training regime at Leeds are world class and will soon become even better when the new Triathlon Centre opens next year,” said Patrick Craig, Assistant Head of Sport at the University of Leeds. “Our incredible success is a combination of the resources and coaching expertise, the challenging environment and a true Yorkshire sense of determination.”
The new facility at the University of Leeds, due to open in January 2017, will become home to the internationally renowned Leeds Triathlon Centre. Costing £5m, the elite training centre will be used by the Lottery funded British Triathlon World Class Programme athletes and will provide strength and conditioning spaces, medical and physiotherapy facilities and will include a specialized 1.6km closed circuit cycle track and triathlon transition training area.
Patrick added: “Britain does particularly well in Triathlon and we are punching above our weight on the world stage. Aside from the technical knowledge and facilities within the University, we believe that the culture of peer-to-peer coaching in Leeds has a dramatic impact on results. You might call it ‘success by osmosis’ coupled with the determination and stubborn willpower that’s required to perform at this level. With this new home for the Leeds Centre at the University of Leeds, we hope it will become the primary triathlon centre in the world”
The new triathlon centre was co-funded by Sport England, British Cycling and UK Sport. Charles Johnston, Sport England’s Property Director, said: “Thanks to this new development, British triathletes will have access to the dedicated world-class training and support facilities they need to be the best.”
With the new centre based at the University, triathletes will also be take advantage of the many state of the art sports sciences facilities including an Environment Chamber, nicknamed ‘The Broiler’, which replicates hot and humid conditions similar to those that the athletes will experience in Rio. Training is under the guidance of university of Leeds academic Dr Mark Hetherington who specialises in heat acclimatisation.
Dr Mark Hetherington said: “Many of our athletes have been through the Environment Chamber. There are profound psychological benefits in terms of knowing what to expect and crucially, there are wide ranging performance benefits. Sessions in The Broiler improve ‘sweat response’, meaning they will start sweating at a lower temperature and as such, will be less vulnerable to heat illness. We’re preparing them both physically and mentally for the extreme challenge of performing in a hot and humid climate.”
As well as triathletes, the University has also sent 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medal winning diver Rebecca Gallantree to Rio, as well as Paralympians Kim Daybell (table tennis), Karen Darke (cycling) and Claire Cashmore (swimming). Kim Daybell, Karen Darke (silver medalist) and Claire Cashmore (winning 2 silver medals) who all competed at the London 2012 games.