OLYMPIC qualification is on the line this weekend as the world’s elite triathletes travel to Brazil for the Rio de Janiero ITU World Olympic qualification event.
Among them will be Derry triathlete, Aileen Reid and while she has already secured qualification for next year’s Olympic Games, this Sunday she will get up close and personal with the 2016 Olympic course in the Brazilian capital.
With nothing but pride at stake in Sunday’s race for the Culmore Road native, it offers Reid the chance to get a feel for the course which starts with a 1.5km swim in the stunning Copacabana Beach.
She’s currently ranked seventh in the world following a superb season where she has improved results with each World Triathlon Series race, culminating in a magnificent 4th place finish in London last June.
She finished in a disappointing sixth place at the inaugural European Games in Baku two weeks later and has recently recovered from a chest infection which saw her miss out in the recent Hamburg race and drop to seventh in the world rankings.
However, with the pressure off in Rio this weekend, Aileen is excited about the chance to race on the scenic yet, testing course as she prepares for her second Olympic Games.
“Up next is Rio and for most nations it’s their selection race (for 2016 Olympics), so one of the most important races of the season,” said Aileen.
“However it holds no points or prizes, so for me it’s a chance to see the course and get a feel for Rio.
“As the sole Irish female, and ranked 7th in the world I have secured my spot (pending nomination by the Olympic Council of Ireland - which should be a formality)”.
“Coming off a chest infection that eases the pressure on me since I’d probably not yet race otherwise,” she added.
The testing course entails a 1.5km one lap swim starting in the Copacabana Beach followed by a 40km, eight lap bike ride which heads down ‘Rua Professor Gastão Bahiana’ and features several steep climbs.
And finally triathletes finish with a 10km run along Avenida Atlantico in front of Copacabana Beach for a total of four out and back laps.
“My plan is to start the race,” smiled Aileen. “I hope to swim and bike strongly so I can get the feel for the race at the pointy end and the run does not matter so much but actually I feel better by that stage I’ll give it a lash.
“Racing in Rio is exciting and to change the goal of the race is something I’ve tried in the past to try improve certain areas without fear of how the risk will effect the outcome.”
The 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games are closer than ever, hitting the one-year countdown mark next Wednesday, August 5th.
And Aileen’s hoping to make a timely return to her top form as preparations step up a gear or two.
“I improved results in every WTS race (Abu Dhabi 26th, Auckland 15th, Gold Coast 7th, Yokohama 6th, London 4th) but was disappointed with my training in the lead into European Games in Baku since it was the third in a row of races I was a bit off the mark, but such is racing, and 6th was all I deserved.
“I went back to training in Morzine France with some venom and possibly overdid things, getting myself a chest infection,” she added.
“I was forced to miss Hamburg and have some recovery time instead. Because I missed a race I dropped one spot in the world series rankings to 7th,” she explained.
After this weekend’s Olympic test event in Rio, Aileen will travel to the USA to prepare for the final two races of 2015 in Edmonton and the World Grand Final in Chicago.
“That brings racing to and end for 2015,” she said. “I’ll then take a short break before looking towards preparing for the 2016 season and of course, the Olympics in August,” she concluded.