JESS Learmonth described the silver medal she earned at the AJ Bell 2021 Triathlon World Series Leeds as a ‘massive confidence boost’ going into her Olympic debut next month, writes Paul Martin.
And the home favourite couldn’t resist joking that she wishes the Games were taking place in Leeds after being roared home by the 4,000-strong crowd inside Roundhay Park.
Learmonth, who lives in Allerton Bywater, took bronze last time the World Series came to the city in 2019 and trailed only Maya Kingma this time around after the Dutch athlete pulled away towards the end of the run.
Occupying the second step on the podium exceeded expectations for the 33-year-old, who has come through an injury-hit winter and soaked up every last drop of the atmosphere knowing no overseas spectators will be allowed in Tokyo.
“The crowds made a massive difference,” she said.
“It’s a shame the Olympics are not in Leeds! It gives me that extra percentage. They were so loud, coming up that hill [on the home straight] it was ridiculous. I loved it.
“It was a bit weird quarantining in my home town when I live down the road but it was all worth it and the event has been amazing.”
On her own performance, Learmonth added: “As usual, I’m fairly surprised.
“It’s a massive confidence boost. I knew my swim and my bike were solid but my run, I had no idea.
“I’ve not had that many run sessions and I’ve had a terrible winter so I’m just delighted I’ve been able to put in a performance and it has given me a lot of confidence.
“I had quite a bad injury and I had about three months off running, maybe more – I didn’t run from December through to March, so it has been difficult.
“I was able to relax on the run a bit as I had a bit of a buffer and I was able to enjoy myself up until the last lap, when I absolutely died.”
Learmonth has been assured of her Olympic place since last November, when she was selected alongside Georgia Taylor-Brown and Vicky Holland – both of whom pulled out of this weekend’s Leeds showpiece.
“They are fine, it was just precautionary really,” said Learmonth, who is not due to race competitively between now and the Games.
“It’s just a bit of illness and a niggle. We’ve only got seven weeks, so if you’ve got a little niggle you don’t need to do anything silly.
“A lot of people are still trying to get selected and need to peak now and again in seven weeks’ time, which is a long time to keep fitness.
“We can be a lot more relaxed, build into Tokyo and prep really well for it. We’ll have a bit of training and then look to get the job done.”
The AJ Bell 2021 World Triathlon Leeds makes its return to the city for the fifth time and represents the pinnacle of triathlon competition in the UK