Big Interview: Triathlete Gordon Benson targeting Tokyo 2020 medal bid

LEEDS triathlete Gordon Benson made a big sacrifice to gain an outing at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Gordon Benson.

The Yorkshireman’s own ambitions had to go on hold as he performed the role of domestique for Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee.

Olympic representation also led to the Leeds sportsman starring in an advert for Rio sponsors Muller Rice.

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But by 2020, Benson hopes it will be himself who will prove the cream of the crop in Tokyo with the Leeds star now looking to bring home Olympic medals in his own right.

Gordon Benson.

With Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee both assured of their selection representing Great Britain at the Rio 2016 Olympics, Team GB required a third athlete to sacrifice their own ambitions in order to help the Brownlees.

Having trained with the Brownlee brothers from a young age, 2015 European Games gold medallist Benson was an obvious contender and the Leeds star was only too happy to accept the role to support his nation’s two medal contenders. Benson’s role was to protect the Brownlee brothers in the cycle ride and swim but the Yorkshireman was eventually forced to retire at the cycle stage after taking a tumble playing catch-up after falling behind on the swim.

Nevertheless, it was a case of all’s well that ends well with Alistair taking gold and Jonathan silver as part of a perfect result for British Triathlon and Team GB.

Benson’s role went rather unheralded, though the Leeds athlete did bag a slice of TV fame through his role in a TV advert for Muller Rice.

Jonathan Brownlee, Alistair Brownlee and Gordon Benson.

But it is on advertising his own credentials at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics that Benson is focusing on with the 24-year-old hoping to excel for Team GB in not just the individual event but also the newly added mixed relay.

Reflecting on his experiences of competing at the Rio 2016 Olympics, Benson said: “It was massively beneficial. It certainly gives you a taste for it and it’s something you want more of, naturally.

“It’s the Olympic Games, it’s the pinnacle of sport really and it’s what we all train for.

“To have the opportunity to go at 22, I was in that support role but that was my one ticket to go there at that age.

“I had one chance and I took it and it was great to be a part of and for me we went there to go and get a result for the team and that’s what we did. It was a pleasure to be part of it and I have ticked that box now.

“Now it’s more about wanting to go there and pushing forward as much as I can for my own medal. I would obviously love to get to another Olympics. I am 24 now and I am looking to start knocking on the door of getting medals and by the time Tokyo comes I will be 26 so I should be at my peak, pushing towards medaling. Hopefully I have got plenty more years in me, a couple of Olympic cycles and hopefully a couple of opportunities.”

Better still, through the addition of the new mixed relay event, Benson hopes he will have the opportunity to challenge for not one but two medals in two years’ time.

Last year saw the Bramhope-based athlete helped Team GB finish fourth at the ITU Triathlon Mixed Relay World Championships in Hamburg alongside Tom Bishop, Lucy Hall and Sophie Caldwell, with Benson believing he can put himself in pole position to fulfil one of the two roles on offer. Two male athletes and two female athletes will represent Team GB in the mixed relay in Tokyo and Alistair Brownlee has yet to commit himself to racing in Japan with the 30-year-old now focusing more on Ironman events.

“I think Jonny will definitely go to Tokyo and we will see where Alistair goes,” said Benson.

“You certainly can’t rule him out. But with the mixed relay now being in the Olympics, going forwards this is a great opportunity to win a medal.

“Britain are traditionally one of the strongest nations in triathlon and to make that relay team in the Olympics would be amazing and I think that’s a real good medal shout. I would love to just go there and race individually as well and just push on and get the best result that I can. There will be two males and two females in the relay and they are short legs so it will be exciting and as a nation we can show our strength.

“It’s just a good one for Britain and I think personally it is a type of racing that suits me. I have done a load of the relay races in this last year and one of my best races last year was in the Nottingham relay racing for Leeds.

“Relay is definitely an aspect of triathlon that suits me and one of best races last year was in the Nottingham relay racing for Leeds.

“It’s not something that I have worked on as such but it’s something I do hope I can specialise in and I’d have liked to have put my stamp on the team early doors.”

Those plans were majorly disrupted as Benson crashed out of the first ITU World Series race of the year in Abu Dhabi with the Leeds athlete injuring his rotator cuff and subsequently needing shoulder surgery.

The Yorkshireman will not be back swimming until August and will miss the remainder of this year’s World Series. As he continues his recovery, Benson joked that another advertising campaign similar to his Muller Rice appearance would suit just fine.

Benson quipped: “I loved doing that and I would do more if there were more out there – especially now while I am not doing anything!

“It was a funny one but it was good fun and it was definitely promoting the sport in the media. When people see triathletes on the TV it pushes it even more and we are trying to get triathlon as big as we can.”

Reflecting on his injury and the bid to quickly return to full fitness, Benson added: “I was pretty gutted and the hardest thing was the prospect of being on the sidelines at the Leeds World Series which is obviously massive for the city.

“Being a Leeds lad, that was a tough one to miss. But injury wise I think I have had a good run now.

“I am still young but I have had a good run and my career has been absent of injuries. It’s a dangerous sport and you are going to pick one up at some point and this one was a bit of a freak accident.

“It is what it is and it’s a tough mental battle as well as physical and I am rehabbing every day,

“You are disappointed as you are not doing what you want to be doing but I am getting there. I am on the road back.”

*DW Fitness First created the GO TRI challenge - created in partnership with British Triathlon. This is part of an ongoing relationship DW Fitness First has with British Triathlon, and DW Fitness First are proud supporters of British Triathlon and are excited to be working together on an ongoing basis to create similar activities to encourage more people to get involved and try triathlon sports. This activity supports the DW Fitness First mission to encourage the nation to become more active, whether a serious sports player or simply looking to move a little more!

To find out more about GO TRI, visit www.gotri.org.