Triathlon debutant battles through pain to make European Championship bow

Athlets at the Women Elite Triathlon at the Olympic park at the European Championships 2022 on August 12, 2022, in Munich, Germany. Photo: Karl-Josef Hildenbrand / Munich2022 (Karl-Josef Hildenbrand / Munich2)

By Will Jennings in Munich

Iona Miller battled through the pain barrier to make her long-awaited European Championship debut.

The Scottish triathlon star, 23, came home 36th out of the 41 athletes to finish at Munich’s multi-sports European Championships as teammate Non Stanford grabbed a brilliant gold medal in her final international race.

Miller has enjoyed considerable success on the junior stage but was thrown into the deep end in Munich against a star-studded field, with Stanford, a World Triathlon Series champion back in 2013, leading the way.

The Scot admits she struggled to cope with the brutal pace but sharing a course with Stanford – and other leading international lights – has whetted her appetite for more of the big stage lights in the future.

Miller, who crossed the line in 2:00:53 in what marked just her third race at the senior Olympic distance, said: “It was very hard.

“It wasn’t the result I wanted, but I was glad to make it to the end.

“I had a good swim but I just felt very flat on the bike - it was a quite a hard bike. That run is just solid, with that hill.

“The crowd got me round there - there are so many Brits in the crowd that really got me round the course.

“I just kept taking in my fluids, my gels and hoping it would get better.

“It was my first senior GB vest so it was such a cool experience. I'm absolutely loving seeing everyone race in such a stacked field, it's really cool.”

Miller finished over seven minutes behind Stanford, while fellow British star Issy Morris came 26th.

The Scottish athlete, an alumni of Loughborough University, recently finished 23rd and 19th in World Cup and European events in Spain and Portugal but admits it was a whole new ball game at Munich’s 1972 Olympic Park.

But it must have felt like home for evergreen Stanford, who delivered a dazzling display to clock a time of 1:52:10 and beat German home favourite Laura Lindemann by nine seconds in her last race in a GB vest.

French star Emma Lombardi finished third while fellow German Nina Eim missed out on a podium by 29s.

It was all about Stanford in Munich, however, who continued the momentum after her mixed team Commonwealth Games silver for Wales in Birmingham to soar to the top of the podium and cap a memorable career.

Stanford’s enthusiasm is infectious and Miller admits she couldn’t be happier for one of the mother figures of the British team.

She said: “Non is absolutely amazing.

“I’m just so happy for her.

“I saw her on the screen when I was coming through - her in first place, and that really spurred me on a bit.”

Stanford added: “It's a complete surprise if I'm honest.

"This is actually my last ever World Triathlon race as I'm retiring this year.

“2011 was the first time I represented Great Britain at a European Championships so it's quite fitting that this is the last time I will ever represent Great Britain.

“To come away with gold is absolutely beyond my expectations.

"I had a terrible second transition, something was wrong with my bike and I got really far behind and I thought I’d just have to stick to my own pace here because it's such a hard run course.

“I just gradually found myself moving through the pack and next thing you know I was at the front. It was quite unexpected."

The multi-sport European Championships Munich 2022, featuring Athletics, Beach Volleyball, Canoe Sprint, Cycling, Gymnastics, Table Tennis, Triathlon, Rowing, Sport Climbing, takes place 11th-21st August on the 50th anniversary of the Olympics Games in the Germany city. Watch daily live coverage across BBC One, Two, Red Button, BBC iPlayer, BBC Sport website.