Leeds triathlete Gordon Benson has been crowned Great Britain’s first European Games gold medallist after victory in Bilgah Beach on the outskirts of Baku today.
The 21-year-old burst clear of his rivals at the beginning of the running phase to claim victory by 11 seconds from Portugal’s Joao Silva with Rostyslav Pevtsov of Azerbaijan in third.
Benson is a training partner of the Brownlee brothers, Alastair and Jonny, who elected not to race in Baku. As a result of his win Benson has automatically qualified for a GB quota slot at next year’s Rio Olympics.
Never mind the Brownlees, Gordon Benson carved out his own piece of triathlon history in Baku when he was crowned Great Britain’s first European Games gold medallist.
Benson is a regular training partner of the all-conquering brothers, who were not competing in Azerbaijan, and it was the 21-year-old’s opportunity to shine amid the sweltering heat of Bilgah Beach.
Bolstered by some exemplary work by team-mates Tom Bishop and Phil Graves, Leeds native Benson burst clear at the start of the final running phase and held on to triumph by 11 seconds over Portugal’s silver medallist Joao Silva.
Benson, who won in a time of one hour 48 minutes and 31 seconds, said: “I don’t know if there’s such a thing as a perfect race but that was close enough – the boys really delivered and I couldn’t have done it without them.
“It’s great being a part of a winning team and taking the gold home. They put me in front and I tried to control the run from the start and I led for almost the entire 10k.
“You could have written 10 names who had a chance of winning that race and I wouldn’t have put myself among them.
“But I knew if everything went right I had a chance to win Team GB that gold medal.”
With his victory, Benson, who won the European Under-23 title last year, automatically earned Great Britain a quota slot for Rio, although that is largely inconsequential as both Brownlee brothers are already certain to qualify.
But the race is now on for the likely third slot for next year’s Games in Brazil, with Benson now facing a domestic battle which ironically includes the pair who worked so tirelessly to lead him to victory.
Bishop had been first to show as he controlled the leading group at the start of the bike stage before Graves took over to keep things in check so Benson had a good launch-pad for his favoured running stage.
Bishop eventually settled for 16th place while Graves, his valuable team job already done, completed the course last of the finishers in 46th place.
Benson added: “I train with Alastair and Jonny and I’m sure they will be happy with my result. It’s good that we can train with such a good group of mates and spur each other on.”