Blantyre Athelete Grant Sheldon

2014 Grant Sheldon from Blantyre

2014 Grant Sheldon from Blantyre

Blantyre athlete Grant Sheldon will try to beat some of the best in the world to the triathlon title at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games — but insists there is no pressure on him to succeed.

The 19-year-old will next month represent Team Scotland at his first Games, with the triathlon event taking place at Strathclyde Park.

An elite field that will include Spanish World No1 Javier Gomez Noya and No2 Jonathan Brownlee will descend on Lanarkshire, with Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee hoping to climb back up from 10th place.

Sheldon is familiar with the park, having ran and cycled its well-known undulating paths for his entire life, — and knows if he has a good race, he can do well in the event.

That’s not just blind optimism either. At his most recent event, the ITU World Triathlon in Auckland, New Zealand, Grant finished 12th in the elite race. Jonathan Brownlee finished second in that race, behind Gomez Noya.

Grant acknowledges that any success won’t come easily, but knows he’s able to at least challenge the top three.

He said: “I know it’s going to be difficult, but I reckon I could go pretty well if I have a good race.

“I’ll be competitive and I think that’s the main aim — to be in the race, to be up there challenging the top guys.

“I would never say a medal is outwith my possibility, but I wouldn’t say there is pressure on me to do it. Any pressure is coming from me.

“It would be awesome if I could win a medal. I think, being realistic, the first two places are probably sewn up. You shouldn’t really say that, leading into a race, because anything can happen, but if it goes according to form, then that will be the scenario.

“It’s up to me to challenge that, and then there’s a least another medal to fight for.”

Grant has worked hard to qualify for Team Scotland but is now entering into his final preparations ahead of the triathlon, which incorporates a 1500m swim, 40km cycle and 10km run, on July 24 and 26. “I’ve worked really hard for this,” he said.

“The criteria came out last year and it was pretty much that if I got a medal at the World Juniors, then that would be my ticket — which I did, but then the goal posts kept getting moved a little bit forward, then a little bit forward.

“I was chasing it at the start of this year, doing everything I could to qualify, and managed to tick the boxes.

“It’s quite a nice feeling to have qualified. I had known for quite a wee while but just not been able to tell anybody. It’s nice, finally, to be able to chat about it and it’s getting closer now.

“It was more of a relief than a surprise when the team was announced. I had a few good races at the start of the season and I think that kind of sealed my spot, so that was more of a relief than anything.”

Grant got started in the sport five years ago after approaching triathlon coach Shona Girdwood, who was already coaching him in swimming, and it just took off from there.

He said: “I’ve been doing triathlon for four or five years, and in triathlon terms that’s quite a short journey. I swam quite a lot when I was younger, and I’ve been doing sport for my whole life, so it doesn’t seem that short, but it has been quite a quick progression.

“I swam when I was younger, and a girl in one of my swimming clubs, Shona Girdwood, organised triathlons. I wanted to do it, went along, did pretty well, and I never looked back.

“When you’re good at something you enjoy it, and that was the case. I did well because I was a decent runner and a decent swimmer — the bike was pretty poor, but you just get that with maturity, and I really enjoyed it.”

Strathclyde Park isn’t just a local venue for Grant, it’s where he has developed and honed his talent. The fact that he will have family and friends cheering him on is just an added bonus.

He said: “I used to come here for walks when we were little kids. When I first started triathlon, this is where I learned to ride a bike, basically, by tearing round the roads around here.

“I know the park pretty well and it will be nice to have a big international triathlon here.

“It has always been a tough course but, this year especially, they’ve taken the run around the loch, which is quite undulating, and there’s a little steep hill on to the road, and it’s quite hilly all the way back. It will be a really tough course, suiting the strong athletes rather than the quick athletes, so it should be good.

“Having my family there will probably spur me on a little bit — knowing they’re there makes it a bit more special.

“My mum and dad have been a big support and they’ve believed in me. When I finished school, it was a big decision if I went into sport or focused on my academics and they left it up to me.

“They told me I’ll have my brains forever, but I’ve only got a limited amount of time to do my sport. That helped me to make that decision, and helped me to make multiple decisions.

“I’m doing maths at Stirling University and I’ve got two years left. Sport is the main thing just now, but I get a degree out of it then that’s always a back-up, and would be good to have.”

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