Kayleigh’s set to take on the world

Triathlete Kayleigh Adams and mum Clare Wookey.  Photo by Mel Evans.
Triathlete Kayleigh Adams and mum Clare Wookey. Photo by Mel Evans.
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If Kayleigh Adams (18) was a little subdued about getting her A-level results last Thursday, it was probably because of the four-hour training session she had just finished.

Unlike the other Year 13 students at Bourne Academy who faced their moment of truth, Adams’ mind was on Edmonton, Canada, where she competes in the World Under-23 Sprint Triathlon Championships on August 29.

The teenager, from Deeping St James, will swim, cycle and run for glory just over a year since taking up triathlon, inspired by her mum and closest confidante Clare Wookey.

Adams said: “I had to take part in a qualifier in Nottingham in May and out of all the people who were hoping to qualify for the Worlds, I had to finish in the top four.

“I didn’t think I was going to do it and nor did my mum because the night before the qualifier, I looked up the past results of my competitors and thought I wasn’t going to be able to beat them.”

Adams stumbled upon triathlon by accident as a way of getting fit, but also challenged by her mum who completed a triathlon herself for charity in 2010.

“I hated PE (physical education) at school and tried everything to get out of it,” Adams said. “But when I joined the Army Cadets six years ago, I wanted to swim because I’d always dreamed of wearing a Great Britain shirt without ever doing anything about it.”

The turning point for Adams came when she joined Deepings Swimming Club in October 2009 when, during an introductory interview, her sporting ambitions were finally revealed.

Wookey said: “The swimming coach asked Kayleigh where she wanted her swimming to take her and my daughter replied ‘I want to go to the Olympics.’

“Kayleigh reached county standard at swimming but also became national 1500 metres champion in athletics for the Army Cadets.

“So when I did my triathlon, I told Kayleigh that she should give it a go.”

Adams took her mum’s advice in July 2013 when in her first triathlon at Woodhall Spa, she finished second to British youth international Bo Haywood of Lincoln.

That result set the stage for Adams’ biggest triathlon of her life so far at Holme Pierrepoint Watersports Centre, Nottingham, where a top-four finish would guarantee her not only a trip to Canada but also qualification for next year’s European Sprint Triathlon championships in Geneva, Switzerland.

Adams said: “Before my races, I always have a medium rare steak with a jacket potato and vegetables.

“But when we got to the hotel in Nottingham, they didn’t have any steak and I remembered a race where I didn’t have a steak the night before and ended up not doing well.

“One of the hotel staff who knew it was a ritual for me decided to put her trainers on and run to a supermarket to get some steak.

“I finally got the steak – but only after the staff member went one-and-a-half miles across Nottingham to get it.”

Adams’ steak dinner ritual proved pivotal in her successful attempt to qualify for the World Sprint Triathlon Championships in May.

Faced with a 750m swim, 20.4km bike ride and 5km run, the same distances waiting for Adams in Edmonton next Friday, the Bourne Academy student came third in a time of one hour, ten minutes and 12 seconds.

Adams said: “When I was racing, I really didn’t think about where I was and I didn’t like thinking that I had one hour ten minutes of hell in front of me.

“I executed the race as I expected but I didn’t know straight away whether I’d qualified, so I had to wait three days for the list of qualifiers and wade through it.

“It didn’t really sink in when I found out that I’d qualified, but it sank in for my mum who thought ‘where am I going to get £5,000 from for Kayleigh to go to Canada?’”

The necessary funding has come from a number of sources, including family, friends, the Army Cadet Force Association, Bourne Round Table, county councillors Helen Powell and Sue Woolley, CycleWright of Baston and Totemic Financial Services of Grantham.

Wookey said: “Lincolnshire Army Cadets swam across the English Channel last year to raise £10,000 for the association and I went to Totemic to ask for £2,000.

“I had to a pitch explaining why the Cadets were doing it and so I took Kayleigh with me.

“The people at Totemic asked Kayleigh what she wanted to do apart from swimming and my daughter said ‘triathlon’.

“When Kayleigh told them she was using my road bike, they gave us a cheque for £5,000 – more than double what I’d asked – and a personal cheque to get Kayleigh her first pair of trainers.

“From that first cheque, Kayleigh is now competing in the World Sprint Triathlon Championships and we are all absolutely made up about it.”