Commonwealths: A Stirling effort paves local lad’s four year road to Commonwealth Games

Russell White in action in the lead-up to the Commonwealth Games. If you would like to help fund Russell's promising triathlon career, you can do so at www.pledgesports.org/projects/glory-in-glasgow/.
Russell White in action in the lead-up to the Commonwealth Games. If you would like to help fund Russell's promising triathlon career, you can do so at www.pledgesports.org/projects/glory-in-glasgow/.

At the Commonwealth games, most of the athletes will have had the dream of competing fixed in their minds since childhood.

They’ll have put endless hours of practice in from a young age with their goal edging closer.

Banbridge's Russell White in action during the World U23 Triathlon Championships 2013 in London's Hyde Park.

Banbridge's Russell White in action during the World U23 Triathlon Championships 2013 in London's Hyde Park.

However, for one Banbridge lad, it’s been a bit more of a whirlwind, albeit powered by four years of hard work.

The last time the Commonwealth Games was launching into action, Russell White’s thoughts of competing in a triathlon were just about popping into his head.

Just four years on and he’s on the highest stage as his rise through the ranks has been a swift one.

Then a promising swimmer, in February 2010 the former Banbridge Academy student decided to make the shift to the triathlon.

Since then, he has won the London Junior Elite Triathlon, finished an impressive ninth in the Junior European Cup and earlier this season, competed in the Yokohama World Series.

In his blog after that event, White said, “I know I can be up there with the best” and he has another chance to make his mark on the highest stage this summer.

“This will be my first major games,” he said. “It should be a good experience and a good stepping stone for more Commonwealth Games and hopefully even Olympics in the future.

“I will be aiming for top 16 I think. Now that I’ve got there, I may as well aim high. I’m going into it in good shape after taking last year off uni.

“I need to make the most of my strong swimming. The running is probably still my weakest of the three but if I can get a good swim, get into the leading group of cyclists and stay away from some of the faster runners, hopefully it can pay off with a good result.”

White will be coming up against the likes of England’s Olympic medal winning Brownlee brothers.

“I didn’t think I would do it within four years of starting,” said White. “It’s all moved very fast and it really has gone in a blur.

“I was always a strong swimmer and then when I started triathlon, my fitness from the swimming helped me. I took to running quite naturally because of that. I gave it all a go and the cycling came even more naturally.

“I didn’t even have a bike when I decided to take it up but the guys at Banbridge Cycling Club were great during my first year before I went to uni. They really got me into it.

“I was training maybe eight times a week in the pool as a swimmer so I was used to the dedication. It was a matter of cutting that down, bringing the other two in and doing work in the gym to get stronger. I’m training about 30 hours a week between the three disciplines.

“I go to university in Stirling, which is where the Scottish triathlon is based. That put me in a great group to train with and it’s been very easy to develop at uni.

“I had met the criteria for the Commonwealth Games so I roughly knew I was on the team. It was in the back of my mind but I didn’t want to tell anyone just in case. It was nice to get the confirmation. My dad actually saw it on the BBC website before we had even been told so that’s how I heard.”

It’s the closest the Northern Ireland squad are ever likely to get to a ‘home’ Commonwealth Games. That’s even more true for White, who barely has to leave his uni digs to compete in the triathlon in Strathclyde.

The men’s triathlon takes place on Thursday (24 July) with the team relay event on Saturday (26 July). White is hoping for a strong finish in both races, even targetting as high as fifth for little Northern Ireland.

“We have a decent team,” he said. “We’re a small nation so it would be a big step for us if we could get into the top five. There are big nations there like Australia, England, South Africa and Canada but if we could come in the top five with the likes of them, it would be great.”

Although he spends little time at home in Banbridge, he will be cheered on by many friends back in his home town.

“I would still be very friendly with the guys from Banbridge Cycling Club and they still help me out a lot,” he said.

“I also got a letter from Mr Pollock (Banbridge Academy Principal) recently to say congratulations. It’s nice to still have that support from home even though I haven’t been there that much since I left for uni.”

And his family will be even closer at hand:

“I’ve managed to get a few tickets for them. Most parts of the triathlon are free to view but I’ve got them tickets for the transition areas, where a lot of the action will be.”

It’s been a comparatively short road for White to reach the Games, now just the small matter of a 1,500 metre swim, 40km cycle and a 10km run stands in his way of success.