As the UK’s brightest young triathletes run, cycle and swim their way to victory, the introduction of triathlon to the School Games hopes to garner more interest in this multi-discipline sport.

Offering a fantastic way for athletes to increase their athleticism and built their fitness, triathlon allows competitors to focus on three disciplines all in one exciting, challenging and fulfilling sport.

One athlete who knows the challenges and rewards of moving into triathlon from athletics is 19-year-old Ben Dijkstra, from the East Midlands.

Having competed in the School Games National Finals in 2014, Ben took home the gold medal in the 3000m before becoming a GB international cross-country runner.

Since making his transition to triathlon, Ben has gone on to win gold at the 2017 Lausanne ETU Trialthon Junior European Cup, silver at the 2017 Holten ETU Sprint Triathlon Premium European Cup and junior men bronze at the 2017 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Rotterdam.

We caught up with Ben to find out a bit more about this time at the School Games and his journey into triathlon...

How did you get into triathlon?

I’m originally from a running background and spotted triathlon in a magazine. I’d enjoyed riding my mountain bike and had competed in the local schools cross-country season so I thought I’d give it a go.

My first event was the Charnwood Triathlon and I absolutely loved the atmosphere and race environment… I think by that point I had already caught the triathlon bug and knew that I wanted to do every race I could!

You were a School Games winner in 2014 – tell us about that…

The School Games was a great way to end my 2014 season. It was a bit of a breakthrough year for me, with my first taste of international racing in triathlon combined with the Youth Olympic Games only a few weeks before the School Games.

The School Games was a great race to target at the end of the year and it was good to end the year on a massive high.

What was your overall School Games experience like?

Unfortunately, I had to cut my School Games experience short due to National Talent Squad triathlon trials, but the experience I had of the athlete village (in Manchester) was great and to represent the Midlands was an honour.

I always find it special to meet new people at events such as this and I’m honestly really glad to say I’m still great friends with some of the people from the School Games.

How different would it have been to compete in triathlon at the School Games?

In short, it would have been amazing! Competing in triathlon at the School Games would certainly provide another really competitive race to the season which would be great to have in the calendar.

I would definitely have competed in triathlon in 2014 at the School Games had we had such a great opportunity to race in another high-quality field.

What was your School Games highlight?

My highlight was definitely crossing the line in the 3000m; it was a great way to round off an incredible season and I will always look back on the School Games with fond memories.

I didn’t realise that I was only half a second of the championship record until after the race, so I wish I had been able to give that a proper shot but to come away with the win was amazing.

How beneficial will it be for 2018’s competitors to experience the School Games?

Experiencing a multi-sports event, such as the School Games, is definitely not something to miss: the opportunities to mix with and support other sports doesn’t happen very often and will hopefully be a stepping stone to similar events in the future.

I have found that when I reflect further on events such as the School Games, I have fully appreciated the magnitude of the experience.

When training for triathlon, do you focus on your strengths or your weakness? Or both?!

Training is a fine balance of strengthening your strengths and minimising your weaknesses. You need to be able to complete the training required to maintain your fitness and ensure that you are able to race at your highest level, but at the same time you are continually refining technical elements of the sport and your technique.

Most commonly you are working on your weaknesses while ensuring that your ‘strengths’ remain in a similar position.  

Have you got any advice to the athletes competing?

Make the most of your time at the School Games National Finals, because it is not something many athletes will be able to experience… especially with it being a multi-sport competition!

I’d definitely recommend going to watch other sports and trying to meet new people.

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