With the Super League Triathlon coming to Jersey in less than a week I caught up with Ollie Turner, the local prospect who is going up against the Brownlee brothers and other top triathletes.
We talked about how he first ventured into the sport, what exactly this big event is, and what it means to the Jersey man, then I asked him what his hopes are for the future.
Q: You were sporty when you were younger, why did you choose to take part in triathlons?
Turner: Yeah, I played football when I was younger and I was always into running. I just decided to give it go, as I did all three individually anyway (running, cycling and swimming). I couldn’t swim at a good level, so I nailed the swimming every day for a good three years, joined a triathlon club and it went from there.
Q: When did you decide to take it seriously and do all three?
Turner: Obviously I couldn’t swim well, and I played football and did running on the side too. I was nine years old when I went to the club and they gave me a free bike, then I knew that was what I wanted to do. I went out every day with Sam Maher, and we pushed each other as we were of similar ability and it all came together from there.
Q: Triathlon is not a sport which is in the media very much, do you think it should receive more coverage?
Turner: Yes and no. Obviously they’re going to show what will pull more viewers. I think it’s more that triathletes don’t get enough appreciation for what they do. I’m not disrespecting other sports but the hours we have to train and the effort we have to put in, I feel it’s harder.
Q: Do you miss playing any of the other sports?
Turner: Yeah, I miss playing football. However, there is a point where you have to sacrifice these things. In football it’s easy to pick up injuries, and in rugby it was even easier. So I had to give those up, to concentrate on my triathlon career.
Q: What would you say is your main strength, the swimming, cycling or running?
Turner: You can’t really have a weakness, but I would say my running is my weakest which is weird because my swimming is probably my strength, which is the opposite from when I started. You need to be able to swim well because you need to make the pack, if you don’t your race is over. The game is changing all the time.
Q: How was the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games?
Turner: So, I went out in February, two and a half months before the race to acclimatise. I spent all my time training and focusing on that one race. The first month was very disappointing, my times were poor and I felt terrible. I went away and raced in Tasmania, had a good race, but got disqualified because I racked my bike 5cm past the threshold. Rules are rules, it’s a stupid rule but I should have read it. I raced in New Zealand aswell and again, didn’t have a great race. This was knocking my confidence. When it came to the big one, on the Gold Coast, I was top ten going into the first buoy, however I was absolutely battered by the other athletes and I fell away to the back. The Brownlee brothers just went at it straight away, their tactics were to smash the first 4k and lose as many people as possible, which included me, as I found myself in no mans land. There was nobody to target, but of all the competitors I caught up with Guernseymen, and we worked together. I finished 26th in the end. For my first games, competing at that level, it was such a good experience.
Q: Tell us more about the Super League event taking place on Saturday in Jersey.
Turner: It’s a new format for trials. So normally the order is swim, bike and then run, but they completely change the order up. It really highlights people’s weaknesses, so if you’re an allrounder then it suits you. Some people like running Olympic distances (10k) but here it’s just a 1.6k run so if you can get away, you stay away. I think it’s one of the best things about it. This event is the qualification race into the Championship, so the top 5 go through and get a pro contract and compete abroad. That’s my main aim, to get a contract and get my name out there more. I love racing.
Q: How’s the training going?
Turner: An average week is 25/30 hours at the moment as I am full time. In regards to Super League on the weekends I do specific things, having a hard day Saturday and Sunday. I would do a swim, bike and run back to back, similar to the Super League format.
Q: Are you excited about racing in Jersey?
Turner: Can’t wait. I am absolutely buzzing. As of yet I am not that nervous, as I try not to think about what’s at stake. The best thing to do is go into every race with an open mind, especially in the Super League, as anything can happen.
Q: Is it an issue to have to leave the Island to race?
Turner: It is and it isn’t. Finance wise, it’s a massive issue, the last two months I have had absolutely no money. I have to persuade sponsors to support me because it means so much to me, to go to these places and race. My sponsors, Fairway Group, are great. But there is nothing in place in Jersey as a comparative to England’s lottery funding, for elite athletes to be able to travel. In Jersey there is nothing like that in place, which I feel there should be. We have to accept we are a small island, but every little helps and if Jersey want to promote sport and create Olympians then they need to have the funding in place.
Q: What’s it like to compete against top athletes such as the Brownlee brothers?
Turner: It’s a bit daunting. When I was younger, I used to watch them on TV and now I am sitting in a room with them before a race, it is a bit surreal. You know it’s happening, you know it’s real. I try not to think about it too much though, but it is all mental.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
Turner: It’s tough to say. I want to be a fully fledged professional. To make money out of what I love to do. Also, in the next three years I want to make the World Championships for Team GB, as an elite. We will see how everything goes.
The Super League Triathlon takes place in Jersey this Saturday and I wish Ollie the best of luck. Be sure to come down and watch the race and support your Jersey representative, as professional athletes flock into Jersey once again.