Enjoyment key for Smith ahead of Paralympic podium bid

·2-min read
Hazel Smith (right) in action with Melissa Reid at the AJ Bell 2021 World Series para-triathlon race in Leeds. (Andy Chubb/British Triathlon)
Hazel Smith (right) in action with Melissa Reid at the AJ Bell 2021 World Series para-triathlon race in Leeds. (Andy Chubb/British Triathlon)

HAZEL Smith has challenged herself to fully embrace the Tokyo experience as she looks to stand on a Paralympic podium for the second time, writes Paul Martin.

The Newcastle-born triathlete competes as a guide in the PTVI category for visually impaired athletes and will be alongside Melissa Reid in the Japanese capital.

Reid claimed bronze in Rio while Durham University graduate Smith was one place further up the podium having claimed silver alongside Alison Peasgood.

Smith switched to guiding Reid in 2017 and having been grateful for the additional preparation time following postponement of the Games, now hopes to soak up every minute of the experience this summer with just 50 days to go.

“The extra year was a blessing,” Smith said. “I’ve got a two-and-a-half-year-old who would have been one-and-a-half had they gone ahead as planned, so it’s given me a lot more time to recover and train.

“For me personally, it’s about being more relaxed going in this time around.

“Rio was such a whirlwind and being honest, my main memory was the stress around it.

“Now I just want to enjoy it as much as we can and put in a better race.”

Smith’s break to give birth combined with an array of cancelled races in 2020 meant the pair had not competed on an international stage for almost four years prior to last month’s AJ Bell World Triathlon Series races in Leeds.

The pair finished fourth in West Yorkshire, just over two minutes behind Peasgood (now guided by Nikki Bartlett), and were pleased to have the chance to shape up on home soil in the first World Series para-races ever to take place in the UK.

“We did a local race a few weeks before Leeds and we stepped up in every discipline from that, so it was nice to see progression,” said Smith, now based in Edinburgh.

“There were challenges and the course was technical but overall it was a massive improvement, which is all you can really ask for.

“To have the para-races as part of the weekend was really positive for para-sport.

“The crowd were incredible and the amount of people that were sat on the hill and wanting to watch around the course just shows para-sport is getting more of a showing and the quality is going up.

“All we can do now is focus on ourselves and put in the best race we can in Tokyo.”

The AJ Bell 2021 World Triathlon Para Series Leeds is the pinnacle of triathlon competition in the UK and is proudly presented alongside Volvo Car UK

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