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Wed 29th Jun 2022
Interview: Stuart Hayes
Posted by: Annie Emmerson
Posted on: Friday 4th July 2008

Tags  Al Brownlee  |  Michelle Dillon  |  Stuart Hayes  |  Tim Don  |  Will Clarke

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Two weeks ago we spoke to Andrea Whitcombe about her disappointment of not making the Beijing Olympic team. Someone else who was also disappointed not to make the team was Stuart Hayes, but unlike Andrea, who had been suffering from a serious injury problem, Stuart's Olympic dream ended not because of illness or injury, but because of a flat tyre. Stuart has been one of the leading British athletes for nearly 15 years. In 2004 he had one of his best years ever, finishing the year as the third ranked athlete in the World, in that same year he just missed out on Olympic selection, but did go to the Games as the number one reserve. Known for his happy go lucky and positive attitude, he has quickly overcome this year's Olympic disappointment and is very excited about his 2008 season as Annie Emmerson found out.

AE After such a positive start to the season and as one of the favourites to make the team, it must be a real disappointment for your Olympic hopes to have ended with a flight tyre.

SH For me the hardest thing to accept was that I knew I was in the best shape of my life and I didn't have a chance to test myself against the other athletes. Of course, it's really disappointing, but when it something that's outside of your control you really can't dwell on it too much!

AE So tell us what actually happened in the selection race, where did it go wrong?

SH It was one of those days where luck didn’t strike for me. After a great swim and exiting the water in third place, I sat comfortably in the lead pack on the bike with all sorts of weather conditions being thrown at us. At one stage it was torrential rain and thunder storms, which hindered the leaner athletes from staying warm and gradually they started to fall out of the race one by one. It also meant that loads of mud, dirt and rubble were washed onto the road and it was on the fourth lap of the bike that I realised I had a rear wheel puncture. I borrowed a wheel from a fellow athlete already retired from the race, but lost two minutes in the change over. I continued to chase the pack when I punctured again, this time the front wheel. Too far away from the wheel stop, I had to ride on my rims before retiring from the race extremely disappointed. It was good to have my partner and coach Michelle (Dillon) there, as she really helped me get through the first couple of days after the race, which were the toughest ones.

AE The British Triathlon Federation decided to put you in as second reserve behind Olly Freeman, but your results this season look to be as strong as his. Were you upset with their choice to pick him over you?

SH To be honest no. I think the selectors will be looking at the fact that he's still very young and that London 2012 will be a big focus for him. They obviously want to give him the same opportunity and experience they gave me when I went to Athens as a reserve. I also think that looking at the three athletes that are going - Tim Don, Will Clarke and Alistair Brownlee - they're unlikely to get injured now, the guys somehow seem to have less injury problems than the girls. So, it would mean taking a lot of time out to go to the games and camps etc, which would mean missing a lot of good racing. I'm happy Olly's first reserve, it will be good experience for him.

AE The guys that are going to the Olympics all had good races in Madrid, but obviously, the unexpected and quite outstanding result of the day, came from young Al Brownlee. What did you think of his performance?

SH To be honest I think all three of them did really well! It was a real hard man's race and considering the conditions they all guts it out and did a great job, people were really cold on the bike and a lot of people pulled out. Al's performance was amazing, he's an incredibly tough athlete and trains really hard, in fact he'll do anything to get a session in. I remember last year when I was training with him in France, he'd been hit by a car and come off his bike, but the day after he went to the lake with his wetsuit and was trying to swim one armed - the other arm was to sore from the crash - around the lake. I guess he is a bit of nutty, but that's what makes him the athlete that he is and that's how he qualified on the day because he's a hard nut.

AE A lot was made of the weather conditions in Madrid and a few athletes have complained that the conditions were very different to what they will be like in Beijing, what are your thoughts on this?

SH We'll we all had three selection races to try and qualify, but no one did in the first two - the World Championships in Hamburg and the Beijing World Cup - we were fully aware of what was needed to make the team in those first two races so it came down to Madrid. A race is a race, no matter what the conditions are, if it had been boiling hot people would have been moaning that it was too hot. Beijing could be similar to Madrid, as apparently it will be cyclone season, so it could be pouring with rain.

AE You've had a long and successful career - nearly 15 years - which has included being the number three ranked athlete in the world in 2004, several top-three World Cup results, several London Triathlon top three's, along with a victory there in 2004, have you thought about when you might consider retiring

SH It's not something I've seriously considered yet, I want to keep going as long as I can, or at least until I reach the point that my body can't handle it anymore. Triathlon is an endurance sport and at 29 years old I've probably still got a few good years ahead of me.

AE So is 2012 still a possibility for you?

SH Yes, I still definitely want to be around to try for 2012, I'm not giving up hope just because I didn't make it this time. This year I'm going to go to the States to try some non drafting races, I think this could actually help me with my Olympic distance training. It's way harder to run a good 10km when you've time trialled for an hour on your own, I have a lot of respect for the age group athletes that are doing it all the time. In Olympic distance racing no one is really getting away on the bike at the moment, but I think it can be done. Sometimes the bike slows down so much - in one race my averge wattage on the bike was only 220 - that there could be a chance to get quite a good lead coming into the run, if you work really hard at staying away on the bike.

AE Will you be changing your bike to race in the non drafting races?

SH Yes I'll be racing on a Focus Izalco chrono which is designed as a specialist time trial bike, I'll keep training on my Focus Izalco Team though and use the chrono for the non drafting races.

AE You've already achieved a lot in triathlon, but what's your biggest unfulfilled dream?

SH I really want to win a medal at the World Championships!

AE Did you not think about going to Vancouver this year?

SH I did, but I knew it would be really tough to get myself really focused and up for it straight after the Madrid selection race and if I go to a World Championships, it's not to make up the numbers, I want to go there to win a medal.

AE Ironman 70.3 is becoming a really competitive circuit, have you any thoughts about stepping up a distance?

SH Possibly, but I really enjoy the French Grand Prix and Olympic distance racing.

AE So you prefer the shorter faster stuff?

SH Yes, I prefer that to being out there all day. I do really like the World Cup circuit, it's exciting, the pace is faster and you need good bike handling skills to negotiate some of the tight courses that have now become very much part of that style of racing. I can't imagine how tough Ironman must be, it's such a long race which requires so much time and hard training and then you get to the race and you get a puncture or you don't feel good and you've done all that hard work for nothing. Ok, so there are a lot of Ironman races now, but it's not the same as Olympic distance racing where you can race just about every weekend if you want.

AE What's in store for you for the rest of the season?

SH I'll be in the States for Minneapolis, the big money race ($60,000 first prize) and then I'll head to New York for the New York City Triathlon, both races are part of the Life Time Fitness series. Then I'll be back in Europe for more French Grand Prix racing, the National Championships and then the London Triathlon. I'm not quite sure what my plans are after that, we'll have to wait and see, but as long as I stay injury free I'll have a good year.

AE It's really nice to chat with you and it's really good to see that you're really positive about the season ahead and that not making the Olympic team hasn't got you down too much.

SH I guess some athletes do get caught up in the politics of the sport, but sometimes I think they waste too much energy doing that when their energy could be better spent focusing on training and racing well, and that's what I plan to do!

You can keep up to date with all Stuart's latest news this season on his wiggle blog

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