Q&A with GB triathlete Will Clarke

Realbuzz gets an insider look into the life of an Olympic triathlete

26-year-old Will placed 14th in Beijing in 2008. He is a member of a British team which currently contains three of the world’s top 10 triathletes. He has the GB lion tattooed on his back. Previously an under 23 champ and long term member of the elite squad, he has been training in the gold coast Oz over the winter. He finished 9th in the first World championship event of the 2011 season and realbuzz caught up with him as prepared for another in Madrid.

Q. Will, this year you spent time training on the Gold Coast in Australia this winter how did you benefit from that experience?

A. Yeah. After last year, I had a very average year with a few good results but it was a big disappointment for me and I actually got a pretty nasty injury in August which stopped me racing. I decided to go to warmer climate and somewhere which was more motivating. We made a lot of gains, we trained harder than I thought I could − doing 32 hours a week for the entire time we were out there, so we got really fit and I started the year with a ninth place so I guess that makes me ninth in the world. Since I have been back I have stepped up my training again.

Q. What is it like being one of three GB athletes in the top 10 does that help to push you on?

A. Yeah it’s extremely hard. GB is the hardest Olympic team to qualify for. They ask for an extremely high standard. So everyone has had to raise their game and everyone is chasing the two Brownlee brothers who are the best in the world. It pushes up the whole teams performances and makes us better athletes in the long run.

Q. You mentioned your injury could you give any advice to other athletes about coping with injury lay-offs.

A. The main thing to remember is to be patient and be sensible. You will be surprised by how quickly your fitness can come back. I guess that would be my advice just to look after yourself properly and if you need to get advice. Be perseverant and you’ll be back before you know it.

Q. You intend to take your training to Lanzarote in July. What will be like the routine out there?

A. Normally we complete around 32 hours a week of training. That’ll be a swim, bike and run every day. Each day it is either really intense or really long. If we are not doing those long sessions then it is really intense 10x1km with maximum effort, followed by a fast swim session so it’s just a lot of hard training!

Q. Competition for places in the team what is the dynamic like?

A. We are all really friends. Most of them came to my wedding and we enjoy spending time together. But like all athletes when you are actually racing you can’t be good friends. We hate each other when we are racing.

Q. You mentioned the Brownlee brothers how do you bridge the gap?

A. I can only be as good as it is possible for me to be but I am listening to my coach and training really hard. These guys and Javier Gomez are 20 or 30 seconds better than anyone else so if you don’t beat them them ... I’ve been really trying to work on my cycling, but these guys are really good on the bike as well and they are really good runners. I am working really hard on my running and just becoming an overall really fit athlete so I can compete with them.

Q. The triathlon for the 2012 Olympics was one of the first events to sell out when tickets went on sale, what does that say about the sport?

A. I am a bit biased because I love the sport ... I am really excited for it and it has not surprised me that it’s one of the first to sell out. It is a growing sport many see it as the new marathon.

Q. Could you elaborate on that idea of a growing sport, how was it for you getting into the sport compared to how it is now?

A. When I used to tell people I did triathlon, a lot of people didn’t know what it is. I could ask a random person what is now and I am 95 percent that they’d know what it is and that they’d put the sports in the right order. That shows how much it has grown. I think a lot of people see it as more manageable challenge to a marathon and maybe a lot more fun. When you see a race where they are closing the city centre for it is crazy the growth. 

Q. What motivated you to start out in the Tri?

A. I got talent spotted when I was quite young; I was just coming out of school. I went to a talent spotting day in Loughborough where I was swimming and running already and they were looking for athletes who had a big swimming base but were also handy runners. Ever since then that has been my path and I picked up bike and started racing. It has created a lot of opportunities for me.

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