Smith inspired by mom in Melbourne
Tyler Smith has targeted a top-15 finish at the first Commonwealth Games in Australia since his triathlete mother competed in Melbourne in 2006.
He was just seven when Karen Smith finished 24th in a race featuring an 18-year-old Flora Duffy, who placed eighth on her debut at a major competition.
Duffy is not the only survivor from Melbourne to have made the trip to the Gold Coast.
Tyler Butterfield, who will join Smith on the start line on Thursday, was a cyclist at those Games while Katura Horton-Perinchief, Bermuda’s chef de mission, competed in diving.
“I remember seeing my mom’s accreditation and the bike she rode [in Melbourne] in the house,” said Smith, who will be cheered on by his parents at the Southport Broadwater Parklands. “It will be cool for her to watch me.
“I guess my first triathlons were mainly because she did it. My dad [Aaron] did it, too. When I was really young I used watch them race. They’ve been a massive help in getting me involved and connecting me with other people in the sport.”
Smith insists he is not on the Gold Coast to merely gain valuable experience and says he knows what to expect.
Several of his rivals on the junior circuit are also competing, including Gold Coast native Matt Hauser, a medal contender despite being the youngest in Australia’s team.
“The level isn’t a massive jump from the best juniors to the best elite,” said Smith, who finished ten places behind race winner Hauser at the WTS Grand Final in Rotterdam in September. “Having that junior experience makes the transition a bit easier.”
The 19-year-old believes it is vital he has a strong swim.
“The main thing for me is to get in a lead group [on the bike],” Smith said. “My run isn’t where the best of the best are, but it’s definitely improved. The goal is top 15; I think that’s realistic. Under the right scenario I could get that. I just want to be competitive.”
Smith enjoyed a confidence-boosting finish in his first appearance since joining the senior ranks last month.
The University of Leeds student came eighteenth at the European Cup Sprint Triathlon in Las Palmas, Canary Islands, in his final outing before the Gold Coast.
“The first race of the season went really well and I’m happy with my form,” he said. “I had a really strong swim and came out third. The field was quite deep and there were a lot of the top guys who race in the ITU World Series. It was the first time I’ve run off the bike under 16 minutes for a 5k.”
Smith will join Duffy, Butterfield and fellow debutant Erica Hawley in the mixed team relay on Saturday.
He admits Duffy and Butterfield were his triathlon heroes growing up and believes the foursome can be a surprise package in the super sprint triathlon.
“I’ve looked up to Flora and Tyler for the longest,” Smith said, “before I even knew any of the other international triathletes or even what the WTS was. To be in the same relay as them and the fact Bermuda can even have a team is pretty special.
“Flora is the strongest woman in the world and Tyler is one of the top guys. Erica has also been putting in some good performances. We have a chance of being a competitive force.
“It’s a format they’re going to include more and more in major games. Maybe in four years’ time [at the Tokyo Olympics] someone else will come along too.”
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