Best of 2011: Helen Jenkins executes perfect plan in London

Best of 2011: Helen Jenkins executes perfect plan in London

By Merryn Sherwood on 09/12/11 at 3:49 am

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Helen Jenkins thrills home crowds in London

Helen Jenkins main aim for 2011 was to secure her spot on the Great Britain team for the London 2012 Olympic Games. To do that, it required a podium finish in the London series race this year.

Jenkins didn’t just place, she won comfortably to break her series winless streak, that had included four bronze medals and two silver. But it turned out she wasn’t quite finished there, as the 27-year-old went on to win her second ITU World Championship. Jenkins, who won her first title in 2008 as Helen Tucker, joins the elite club that includes Emma Moffatt, Emma Carney, Michellie Jones and Karen Smyers as female athletes who have won two ITU World Championships.

Age: 27
ITU World Championships: 2 (2008, 2011)
Dextro Energy Triathlon Series wins:1 (3 Silver, 4 Bronze)
Where she calls home: Bridgend, Wales
You can follow Helen on Twitter, @heljinx

Yet at the start of the season, it would have been a brave tipster to predict that result. Despite having claimed four bronze medals in series events across 2009 and 2010 (including one each of those years in London), Jenkins hadn’t won a series race or World Cup since her 2008 world title in Vancouver. While she did get back to the top with a sprint win in Clermont to open her 2011 season, she left the Sydney opening round battered and bruised after a nasty bike crash, and with a 33rd place finish. That result was her lowest ever placing in an ITU race.

But from there, Jenkins’ season soared. In Madrid and Kitzbuehel she took it right up to the unstoppable Paula Findlay, claiming two consecutive silver medals. Next was London, and her confidence should have been flying except that she came down with a cold and struggled through her warm-up, later writing on her website that she came out of the water almost in tears because she could hardly lift her arms. That was definitely a surprise to anyone who then actually watched the race. Jenkins led from start to finish and while reflecting on her season in Beijing, said she still couldn’t quite believe it.

“I’m still amazed the way I did it, it was really interesting afterwards to actually watch it back and see what kind of happened,” she said. “I was at the front pretty much from the start and I just didn’t look back until a couple of hundred metres when I knew Gwen Jorgensen was running me down.”

After that, Jenkins then went on to finish fourth in the individual sprint titles in Lausanne and moved into the No.1 spot in the rankings. From there, all she needed was a podium place at the Beijing Grand Final to win her second world championship. But it was made harder by the fact that she had bad memories from the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games - where she came in as the World Champion but finished 21st - and then had a messy T2 that cost her about 10 seconds. But she quickly bridged the gap between the leaders, before her and Andrea Hewitt pulled away and it became clear early on in the run that they were the only two battling for gold. And while Hewitt powered away to claim the win, Jenkins’ silver was enough to claim the overall ITU world title.

“I didn’t expect these 12 months definitely,” said Jenkins afterwards. “The main aim for me would have been to qualify for the Olympics, I was so happy to have met that, I didn’t expect too much from the rest of the year but I finished up winning the series.”

So what are the lessons learned? For one, Jenkins met battles in 2011, that bike crash in Sydney that left visible scars, the cold before London - but pushed through them to achieve what she needed too. But perhaps more importantly for every female triathlete aiming for Olympic Gold next year; Jenkins’ London win was proof that when she wants something, she’s now very good at getting it.