Smith finds validation among world’s elite
Tyler Smith achieved not only a sense of pride but also validation with a promising performance at the ITU Triathlon Arzachena World Cup in Italy on Saturday.
On the same day that Flora Duffy stormed to her second successive World Cup gold medal with a dominant display in the Elite Women’s race, compatriot Smith more than held his own among the Elite Men, finishing 26th from a field of 62 competitors.
For Smith, the race represented more than just his strong final position, as it proved to the 22-year-old that he belongs alongside the world’s best triathletes, having battled back from a fractured foot last year.
“I was really pleased with how I competed,” said Smith, who finished in a time of 56min 46sec, just two minutes behind winner Vincent Luis, of France. “It was my first triathlon back since surgery on my foot last year, so it was really encouraging to see I still had the ability to compete at that level.
“It was without doubt the most competitive field I’ve ever raced against and there was seven guys who have won world series events.
“The event was just a great chance to test myself against the best in the world, and I’m just over the moon with how I competed.
“There is no better feeling than racing in a triathlon of that level. I’m a fan of the sport, so I’ve always looked up to the guys I was competing against; it was an incredible experience.
“It was crazy to see the top three, guys who I’ve looked up to, and I’m finishing only two minutes behind them. Two minutes seems a lot at this level, but for me it’s really encouraging.
“The main thing for me is that it proved I do belong at this level.”
Smith conceded that he was still having doubts about the validity of his inclusion in the event, even right up until the start of the race; however, those doubts were eased with his performance.
“Going into the race, it felt like the ultimate fan experience and I questioned whether I belonged alongside some of those guys,” he added.
“I guess it was a little bit of impostor syndrome ahead of the race, but afterwards I really felt like I belonged among that field and I had earned the right to be there.
“Those guys are professional athletes and I’m delighted with how my race went and it showed me that it is worth chasing it as a career, doing this full time is an attainable dream.”
In preparation for the race, Smith could not have asked for anyone better to seek advice, after leaning on the expertise of a two-times world champion in Duffy, who herself has had to battle back from a career-threatening foot injury.
“Having Flora there supporting me was just incredible,” Smith added.
“She’s established a worldwide reputation for Bermuda within triathlon and I didn’t want to let her down. I wanted to be able to try and uphold that.
“We rode the course together the day before and I was able to get advice on how she would tackle certain parts of it.
“Having not only a star of the sport, but someone I knew from back home made me feel comfortable.
“It’s such an inspiration seeing her come back from the injury she had and now be back on the top of the world. She didn’t get where she is without a lot of hard work and it’s incredibly motivating to see how she’s come back from her setbacks.”