Erica Hawley welcomes chance to kick-start pro career
Erica Hawley is relishing a return to competitive elite-level action as she looks to reignite her professional triathlon career.
After enduring an agonising wait for consistent competition, owing to the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, elite triathletes are set to take to the start line once again across various competitions tomorrow.
For Hawley, that will be at the Europe Triathlon Cup Caorle, in Italy, before possibly competing in the World Triathlon Cup Lisbon, Portugal, next weekend and then the Europe Triathlon Cup Olsztyn, in Poland, at the end of the month.
While the 23-year-old has enjoyed the ideal preparation, relocating to one of the hotspots of the sport in Girona, in northern Catalonia, Spain, she conceded to slight apprehension ahead of competing again.
“Training has really been good and you can’t really be in many better places than Girona, it’s kind of the Mecca of triathlon,” said Hawley, who turned professional at the beginning of 2018.
“Despite training full time but you can’t fully replicate a race environment and experience. It’s strange because I was lucky enough to turn professional and be able to be a full-time triathlete but I haven’t really been able to race all that much.
“The key for me is to always improve on certain areas. I always aim to start strong and then go from there. I’ve felt really strong in training and so hopefully I can execute my plan and achieve some good results.
“I never like to set exact goals and prefer to focus on the process but I’m really excited to be racing consistently again.”
As well as her training preparation, Hawley can also draw on her experience of competing in the Sarasota-Bradenton Triathlon at Nathan Benderson Park in Florida, in March, where she claimed a respectable eleventh-place finish.
“I managed to race in March and that helped in shaking some of the cobwebs off,” she added. “I felt lucky to have that experience because it was a little daunting going back into racing.
“The race gave me a good benchmark for where I’m ahead of these upcoming races.
“Every competition you do helps to build for the future and gaining those different experiences in varying circumstances is really important. It all helps in learning to have that cool head in difficult situations, which is a really big thing in triathlon.
“Age and experience go a long way in this sport and these races will be an invaluable experience for me.”
While her immediate focus is on the upcoming races across Europe, Hawley finds herself in an intriguing position of having to be fully prepared for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, from July 23 to August 8, should she be selected.
One hundred and ten triathlon participants, split evenly between men and women, are expected to compete at the Games with each of the eligible respective National Olympic Committees selecting their athletes who are inside the top 140 of the rankings.
Having claimed victory at the Tokyo Olympic Test Event in August 2019, Flora Duffy earned an Olympic berth for Bermuda, with the 33-year-old 27th in the Elite women’s Olympic rankings on 3903.98 points. Compatriot Hawley is 123rd on 636.44 points, meaning both would be eligible for selection.
Although Hawley fully expects two-times world champion Duffy to be representing the island in the rescheduled Games, she conceded the possibility of competing on the world’s biggest sporting stage remains in the back of her mind.
“I hope for Flora’s sake that she stays fit and healthy ahead of the Olympics because she secured the spot and should be at the Games,” Hawley said.
“I know in the back of my mind that I have to be ready because I would eligible to go if Flora wasn’t able to. If that was the case then I would be ecstatic to go and represent Bermuda at the Olympics.
“It’s crazy to think that I have to be ready for that situation because I still feel relatively new to the sport, but I know I have to be ready for anything and be fully prepared if disaster did strike with Flora.
“However, like I said, I hope for her sake she remains fit and healthy because she earned that spot for Bermuda.”