By Merryn Sherwood on 01/01/14 at 10:49 pm
As the reigning U23 World Champion, Great Britain’s Non Stanford started the 2013 season as one to definitely watch, but probably not a senior world title contender just yet.
Fast-forward to San Diego, where Stanford ran through the field late in the day to claim silver only behind the lightning quick Gwen Jorgensen, and suddenly she entered the frame as a serious podium contender.
But it was in Madrid where Stanford took it to the next level and showed she was a real threat to create history, as the first woman to go straight from winning an U23 world title to a senior one. Stanford dominated the tough course around the Casa de Campo Park, relishing the steep hill on the bike and leaving the rest of the field in her dust in the run, winning by 30 seconds.
However her title challenge did suffer a scare in Stockholm, a day after collecting another silver medal in the individual race Stanford sustained a broken arm as she crashed out of the 2013 Mixed Relay World Championships. It may have hampered her training ahead of London, but you wouldn’t have known it from the performance she brought to Hyde Park.
On the start line, with just 13 points separating Jorgensen, Haug and Stanford, whoever broke the tape would win the world title. While the other two contenders had the kind of bad luck that exists in triathlon nightmares, Stanford sailed ahead in the lead pack.
The only thing that threatened to derail that was a messy T1, where Stanford failed to place her wetsuit in the designated area. That incurred a 15-second penalty. But if it rattled the 24-year-old it failed to show, as she simply went for it from T2. She ran so fast that even when she served the penalty, no-one had over taken her. From there the world championship title was just a formality, and Stanford wrote her place in the history books with one of the strongest performances this year. Even after serving that penalty, her winning margin from Ireland’s Aileen Reid was 19 seconds.
For the record, the only other person to win consecutive U23 and senior world titles is Alistair Brownlee. In 2014, non-one will leave the 2013 World Champion off the list of title favourites again.