The youth national triathlon championships took place in Loughrea on Sunday, September 9. Over 170 children from all over Ireland took part, with action played out over four separate races for U8, U10, U12, and U15.
Each age group was hotly contended with children eager to follow in the footsteps of Ireland’s triathlon Olympians.
Cian O’Keeffe, age 11 and a pupil at Gealscoil Philip Barun in Tramore, took the bronze medal in the U12 catagory. His dad Garry is a member of Carrick-on-Suir Triathlon Club, while Cian is a member of Comeragh Cycling Club.
The swim was 150m in the lake. Despite the rain, the juniors lined up along the waters edge in their wetsuits ready to take on the cold and choppy waters. Cian, who swims with Splashword Sharks, was confident in the water and put himself into a strong position early in the race by being the 4th person out of the swim and into transition 1.
The transition was slow for everyone as they struggled out of their wetsuits and then onto their bikes. Cian had planned his race carefully and decided to wear runners and cages on his peddles to save time later in the race. Leaving transition in 5th place Cian was determined to climb back up to a more competitive position. The bike was 6km long out and back route. The first half of the cycle the triathletes had to contend with a bit of a drag into the headwind, Cian excelled here, from his summer of bike racing and training with the Commeragh CC, and quickly progressed into 3rd position. On the way back, there was one big climb, but then Cian tucked into a competitive time trial position and aided by the tail-wind chased down the two triathletes still ahead of him. On approach to the second transition all spectators were remarking on the professionalism of Cian’s dismount. Mounting and dismounting in triathlon takes a lot of skill and nerves can easily interfere, as was seen with World Champion Jonathon Brownlee in the Olympics when he received a time penalty for a mounting infringement.
In transition 2, Cian’s gamble with wearing runners for the bike leg paid off and he had the fastest time in this transition. The run was 1500m, during the run Cian gained time on the race leaders and brought them back into his sites, unfortunately they were too strong. In a nail-biting finish Jack McCullough won the sprint for the line taking 1st place. Cian maintained his position and took 3rd place with a commanding lead over the remainder of the field. At the end of the race Cian commented that he had enjoyed it all but that he was now bet.