Carnival of sport in Leeds as triathlon draws huge crowds to the city
Spectators enjoyed a weekend of competitive action as the Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon got underway in Leeds taking in Roundhay Park and reaching a finale in the city centre’s Millennium Square.
Yesterday many of those lining the course waved Yorkshire flags, others rang bells and held aloft signs emblazoned with slogans of support as the action was broadcast live on the BBC.
World Triathlon: Ironman Alistair Brownlee unwilling to bend to brother Jonny’s willThe cheers, claps and shouts from an anticipated turnout of up to 100,000 were of real encouragement to the non-professionals.
But the noise was ramped up even further when the crowds rooted for local heroes such as Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee when the competitors from the elite men’s and women’s events streamed through the streets.
Claire Sorley, of Beeston, cheered on her husband David, with her children Evie, six, Ben, 10, and Milly, 12, who held a sign adorned with the words ‘Touch 4 power boost’ next to a 3D tin foil button.
Mrs Sorley said: “My husband wanted us to be here near the end to give him a power boost. A lot of runners came up and touched the sign as they ran past and it’s been really nice with people who have finished coming back and saying thanks, it really helped.”
Despite having only started to walk again in April last year after a serious motorcycle accident in October 2015, which left him wheelchair-bound for four-and-a-half months, Dave Ebsworth, 34, of Burley, Leeds completed the route wearing a prosthetic lower right leg.
He said: “Six months ago I decided I was going to do it. It’s been a brilliant experience. I’ve had lots of support and people patting me on the back on the way round.”
For Matthew Brown, 43, who lives next to Roundhay Park, the great thrill was competing on the same ground as the world great.
“I love all the World Championship stuff – the blue carpet and doing it in the same area as the world champions are doing it,” he said.
The triathlon was taking place in the city for a second successive year and for Leeds student Katie Smith, 22, this year was even better.
“To run into town, with all the support around you, was really something. The Brownlees are my idols. I wanted to be like them,” she said.
Christian Ulf-Hansen, 55, of Hertfordshire, lined up after recovering from a broken collarbone and finished with a time of around one hour and 35 minutes.
He said: “I loved it. There were a lot of very nice people cheering us on.
“The people of Leeds have been very supportive along the route and believe me, it makes a real difference.
“My favourite bit was when I came round a corner and there was a brass band playing.
“I find them really emotional and there were so many people clapping – I very nearly cried.
“One reason I came is because it is the home of the Brownlees and I am a big fan of them so to do a race up here is special.
“They have put triathlon as a sport and Leeds as a city on the map.”
Event organisers said they were delighted with how the weekend unfolded.
Jack Buckner, chief executive officer of British Triathlon, said: “There is such a great atmosphere and the people love the sport, and now it’s the best city for the sport in the world really. I think people are seeing that.”
Alison Jefferis, head of corporate affairs at sponsors Columbia Threadneedle Investments, added: “We sponsored the triathlon in London before the decision to come to Leeds, something which there were mixed views about, but we have found there is real commitment to the sport here and having the Brownlees here really brings a special element and ensures people get behind it.”