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Will Beth Potter go after a Tokyo spot on the track?

With the British Olympic triathlon team set, the 5 km world record setter weighs track options

Photo by: Kevin Mackinnon

There’s been lots of buzz around Scottish triathlete Beth Potter since she ran a blazing 14:41 5 km road race on the weekend, potentially setting a new world record for the distance. The race last Saturday was the continuation of a string of impressive performances from the 29-year-old – last fall she won the final world cup of 2020 in Valencia and before that she took second at the Arzachena ITU Triathlon World Cup. At the end of March she ran away from Lucy Charles-Barclay in the final leg of the Super League Triathlon Arena Games London for a dramatic win. 

While Potter might have won the Arena Games  thanks to a brilliant final run, it was the fact that she was able to stay in the mix through the swim and bike legs that put her in position to win the race. Since turning to triathlon in 2017 after a track and field career that saw her compete at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Potter has steadily become a more all-round triathlete.

Competing in the triathlon event in Tokyo is very much a long shot, though. British Triathlon has selected the three women who will represent Great Britain at the Olympics – Vicky Holland, Georgia Taylor-Brown and Jessica Learmonth.

“Obviously my aim was to qualify for the triathlon team but unfortunately that’s not currently available to me at the moment because they chose the team at the back end of 2019,” Potter told Athletics Weekly. “It has to be a miracle for me to make that (triathlon) team. But I’m not giving up on it.”

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She could potentially go after a spot for the Olympics on the track, though. The British trials for the 10,000 m (she was 34th in that event in Rio) will be held on June 5, but Potter isn’t ready to commit to that just yet. Based on her blazing 5 km road time, it’s hard to imagine she couldn’t be in the running for a spot in the 5,000 m, too.

“I don’t know what I’m doing yet,” she told Mark Woods from inews.co.uk.

Photo: Beth Potter Facebook

Competitive British Olympic squad

Potter’s impressive results prove just how competitive the British triathlon program is. The current World Triathlon Olympic qualification rankings have Taylor-Brown, Learmonth and Holland sitting in second, fourth and fifth. 2016 Olympian Non Stanford won’t make it to Tokyo, either, and she’s ranked eighth in the standings. The British women in the top 30 continue with Sophie Coldwell at 21st and Jodie Stimpson at 29th. (Canada’s top-ranked athlete, Joanna Brown, is 22nd in the standings.) Potter is the seventh-ranked British athlete at 48th.

The Olympic qualifying period was paused last March due to the Pandemic, so Potter’s impressive fall didn’t help move her up in the standings. While qualifying will resume this May, British Triathlon has made its call with regards to the women’s team.

Even if Potter doesn’t make it to Tokyo, her potential in all levels of triathlon is huge. She’d be 32 in 2024, with another three years of swim and bike training under her belt if she decided to stick with draft-legal World Triathlon racing and aim for the Olympic triathlon in Paris. Her amazing running ability, though, indicates she has lots of long-distance potential. It would appear that Potter has no fear of training hard and long – the day after her record-setting performance she was out for a 3:30 bike ride and did a run later in the day, and she regularly puts in 25 to 30 hour training weeks, as you’ll find out in this video Super League Triathlon produced after she won the Arena Games event in London.