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Mon 26th Sep 2022
© Jose Luis Hourcade
Leanda Cave is not done yet...
Posted by: John Levison
Posted on: Thursday 14th May 2015

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With World Championship wins over four different distances, three Ironman wins so far - including Kona - plus medals at European Championships and Commonwealth Games, Leanda Cave is one of the most decorated British triathletes in history.

This coming weekend, Leanda will be racing a top quality field at Ironman Texas, an event that this year carries added prestige as the North American Championship. I was recently out at the Cannes International Triathlon (which Leanda won), and before that race chatted to Leanda about recovering from injury following her Kona win in 2012, what keeps her motivated, how she has managed such consistent success over a long period... and still has the desire for more.

You had a pretty strong season in 2014, having spent most of 2013 seemingly always playing catch-up, or trying to get over injuries following your Kona win in 2012. Is that how you saw it too - being able after that frustrating time to be back in the game physically and to produce performances you know you are capable of?

Yes, I feel that this year I've been able to get my training block in a lot earlier, and right now I'm just where I need to be. I've done a lot of miles, a lot of base, I've done my strength work - I'm not coming in with injuries as I was before. This year is going well so far in relation to where my main goals are, which is going to be Kona again, and it's always nice not be chasing your tail, to be ahead of the curve as it were. (Challenge) Dubai was not so good, my last race was good, so it's just tweaking a few things here and there to correct rather than major surgery as it were.

My Kona qualifier this year will be Ironman Texas (May 16th). It's closer to home and earlier in the season. Last year I couldn't race early because I wasn't ready and was trying to get fit. This year I feel like I could race an Ironman tomorrow and I'd be quite good.

How frustrating was it to win the big one, the Ironman World Championships in 2012, and then not be able to do the things you wanted and perform as you would expect and hope as an Ironman World Champion?

That I won the World Championships in itself is a blessing and a good place to be, but unfortunately, I couldn't follow through with a good season. It's emotionally and mentally tough to be in that position - to balance trying to do all of the rehab and recovery you need to do physically alongside all of the other commitments. I really struggled, I was trying to be in a million places at once, doing a million things... it was a balancing act and it really wasn't working. It's actually nice to be in the position I'm in now, perhaps seen as an underdog in most races with the pressure off and I like being a little less in the spotlight just to be able to focus on myself and not have to worry about other things as much.

Looking back on your career, the thing that stands out for me is how you have consistently performed at the big races - a complete set of 70.3 World's medals, Gold and Bronze at Ironman World Champs, ITU World Champs, ITU Long Distance World's Gold and Silver... is that focus on the big events and being able to perform at those your motivation to peak when it really counts?

I feel like I don't lose focus just because of the bigger events. There are people that have just as much talent and ability as me on the day but they crumble because it is a World Championship event and the pressure that goes with that. For me, I go into these races with the same focus and desire as I do any other race and because I've been doing this so long the bigger events don't effect me as much as they did when I was younger. I've learned to cope with the pressure and the nerves over the years - I'm now a mature athlete (!) - so you get that experience by doing this for so long. Last year the World's (Kona) didn't work for me despite having many other good ones in the year, but I feel like I'm going to be on a different level in that race this year.

Silver at ITU World LD Champs to Rachel Joyce ©Rich Cruse / ITU

Having done all these events and achieved so much, do you still have that hunger and desire to keep going back? If anything, does having done it before give additional belief and confidence that you can do it again?

I think every year - and this probably goes back at least five or six years (!) - there comes a point in the year when I think "I'm so over this, I'm done...", and then you start training, start racing, start performing and that love for the sport comes back. I've been around so long because I've enjoyed the sport, not just the participating and winning things, but the lifestyle too. I'm in it for the long run. I don't necessarily win every race but I have the fun and the hunger - that's the biggest part for me, not just to have two or three years at the top and then fall off the map.

Alemeda o.n. team

You've got some new things happening this year -you are part of a new team ( and also involved in the development of a new bike ( Tell us a bit more about those.

Again, it's finding something new and fresh which keeps things interesting. With the team we're developing something long term in a developing country in a development region for triathlon. I think that's important because we have these races in for example the Middle East, but there are few athletes from that region competing. I aspired to the top athletes when I was coming through the ranks, and I think it's good to be a part of a team and inspire young people towards that goal.

The bike, yes that's really fun. I mean there are so many bikes and companies on the market these days and yet Ventum have managed to come up with something unique in the design, and to be part of that development and bring the bike to fruition is a big thing. You know, I've seen the company start from a sketch on a piece of paper to where it is now, a bike that I'm actually riding in a race. I see this bike going big places in the future and the fact that it's something people haven't seen before. It gets mixed reviews, some people love it, some people hate it, mostly based up aesthetics of the bike. I mean it's not about looks it's about the performance on the bike and in the long run that will come through and that's what this bike is all about.

Riding the Ventum to victory at Cannes International Triathon 2015

A personal view... when I look at your career and all of those championships and medals you have won, I often think that you are have been underestimated and overlooked in terms of your achievements. When other athletes are mentioned, I don't feel that you are sometimes given the credit and respect that your C.V. deserves. Do you have any similar feelings?

I guess that people look at athletes in the current climate - I've been racing in so many era's of the sport, starting racing in non-drafting Olympic Distance through to today, and I've been there in all of those different styles and have adapted and conquered in each case. I feel that right now there are certain athletes dominating and those athletes get the attention which I think may be what you are referring to. I think in the grand scheme of things, I'm not retired yet and I'm still going! Perhaps when I'm retired, that will be when people look back more and say "woah, she's being going for so long and achieved so much", but right now some of those are perhaps so far back that people have forgotten!

After winning the 2015 Cannes International Triathlon ©T.Deketelaere/Triathl├Ęte Mag

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