Triathlete Beth Potter created a little piece of Team Scotland history when she competed in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games four years ago. The 30-year-old became the first of our athletes to participate across two sporting disciplines at the same Games, running in the 10,000 metres in athletics – after competing in the triathlon individual and team relay event in Queensland
Looking back, Scotland’s top triathlete admits she took on too much of a challenge Down Under. The focus for Birmingham 2022 is solely on the endurance multisport event – a combination of swimming, cycling and running – where she’s climbed into the world’s top 10.
With a nod to her toils on the Gold Coast, Potter said: “It was really cool to create a bit of Scottish history. I’d only been doing triathlon for a year then and it was a big ask. In hindsight, I should have stuck with just one of them as it was too difficult a task. But going into this Games I’m just focusing on triathlon and seeing how well I can do in that.
“It was a nice transition into a new sport by doing both at the last Games. However, the key was probably to focus on just one – and I’ll be doing that this year.
“It was all within four days last time. I had the individual triathlon, the triathlon relay and then the 10k, so it was a big ask. It was hard – and I won’t be doing it again.”
As she prepares for her third Commonwealth Games, she has her sights set on a podium finish. And little wonder. Having established herself has one of the best in the sport, she was crowned Arena Games Triathlon World Championship winner earlier this year.
She said: “I’m really hoping that I get on the podium. That’s an aim for me, definitely. I feel I’ve made big improvements this winter and I think I’m definitely capable of mixing it with the girls at the front. I just need to make sure I’m there, fit and healthy, and then who knows.
“It would be a bit surreal (to see the Saltire flying) but the biggest thing holding me back is my belief in myself. I just need to believe I can do it. Believe I’ve got a chance.”
Switching between specialist events has not been without its challenges, of course. Her quality as a runner was never in doubt but Potter has worked tremendously hard to master the cycling and swimming aspect of this gruelling athletic test.
Fortunately for the Glaswegian, she’s found a couple of better-than-decent training partners to help her make the transition since moving to Leeds. The Brownlee brothers.
Getting advice and guidance from Olympic champions Alistair and Jonny, two legends of the sport, has been instrumental in Potter’s development. She is certainly pushed to the limit in training – but has reaped the rewards from working with the superstar siblings.
She said: “I had to learn a whole new discipline and then get to grips with the racing on a bike in that discipline, which is obviously different in terms of tactics and energy saving – and I could only pick that up from racing.
“But I feel I’ve got the best team around me in Leeds, and I’ve got good people helping me get better, that’s been key to my fairly steep but steady progression. I’ve put the work in this winter across swimming and the bike, and hopefully I will reap the rewards this summer. It has been challenging but I’m now ranked top ten in the world and it’s definitely all been worth it, in the end.
“When I moved to Leeds, I actually moved in with Jonny, just because I didn’t know anyone, and he helped me initially. They were the reason I wanted to do it (triathlon) after watching them at London 2012.
“I train with them day in, day out and it’s really good to have their support and their input. They are an instrumental inspiration for me. They are my role models and who I look up to. Alistair has been great at helping me with the bike, in particular.
“I know what it takes to get there and it’s good to have their feedback about things I can improve on and where I’m going wrong or how I can get better.”
Just as she was inspired by the Brownlee boys, Potter knows that she’s putting herself in a position to motivate the next generation. As someone who left a career in teaching to concentrate full-time on sport, that’s important.
“I hope people do look up to me because I feel that what I has been quite brave, a bit out there and kind of unique,” she said, adding: “I hope that people are inspired by that. I train with a lot of younger girls and guys on the track and, not that I mother them, but I feel they look to me for advice. I feel I’ve still got a lot in my locker, although I’ve done a lot in my life.”
Having competed in the 5000 and 10,000 metres on home soil in Glasgow 2014, Potter is relishing the prospect of another major event in the United Kingdom. Not just because she’s been able to get a bit of time on the Birmingham 2022 triathlon course.
She said: “I’ve been quite fortunate in my career, on the track and triathlon, to compete in major comps in the UK. Things like London 2017 when I was in the World Championship team, Glasgow 2014 and the European Championships there a couple of years ago.
“It makes a massive difference, and we should definitely be using it to our advantage. I went down to Birmingham recently and rode round the course. Because why would I not take advantage of it being at home, seeing the course and knowing my bearings? I feel it’s important to do that and get more background knowledge.”
Article by Michael Baillie