Laurelle steps into big shoes

HARARE - A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

When triathlete Laurelle Brown took her first step as a “tri-kid”, she never imagined that one day the stride would lead to her carrying the country’s high hopes.

Chris Felgate, a veteran of two Olympics, retired from international competition in November last year.

The retirement has opened up doors for other emerging athletes to fill the void as Zimbabwe’s leading triathlon ambassador.

The spotlight has landed on Laurelle, an 18-year-old former Peterhouse College Girls student. Although Brown relishes the task, she maintains that she will have to pursue her studies first.

“I am definitely hoping to follow in Chris's footsteps and one day reach the Olympics, but before I can do that, I want to finish my  studies,” Brown tells the Daily News on Sunday.

“After this year, I am going to mainly focus on my studies then in a few years’ time get back into it to possibly qualify for the (Rio 2016) Olympics.  Chris has set a very high bar and it will be difficult to achieve because I know how much time and hard work he has put in to get there, but I think one day I can see myself at that level.”

In the meantime, Brown is content with seeing off her final year in the Under-18 /Under-19 age group with a bang as she now heads for the more challenging Under-23 category. The Harare lass turns 19 later in the year.

“This is my last year as a junior so I am going to put a lot of time into it and hopefully do well because I know that the U-23 age group is very competitive.

“I think the Under-23 age-group is on a whole new level and moving into that age-group from being a junior is a huge step. I would be racing against elite triathletes who I used to look up to as a junior and who have vast experience, especially at the new race distance.”

The 2011 Under-19 All-Africa gold medallist returned home last weekend from a training camp in Australia on an International Triathlon Union (ITU) ticket. While in Australia, she also took part in a competitive race and finished 16th out of a strong field of 19 girls.

“The training camp was very good, sometimes a bit hard, but there were two very good coaches and it was great to be training with all the different athletes from around the world, including the junior world champion in 2012 from Japan and the Australian team,” Brown says.

“I feel very privileged to be a permanent member of the ITU team and also to be invited to such a prestigious event in the future. It has exposed me to a new side of racing outside of Africa. I also feel that it has given me hope and it will help me to get far in the sport.”

Brown has fond memories of her fruitful junior triathlon career.

“I have had so many great moments in triathlon but I think it will have to be the ITU and ATU training camps. They are always so much fun and I have met so many great people and learnt a lot of little things,” she says.

 “I have also enjoyed the Zimbabwe tours, I love traveling to new places and seeing new things with the team. In racing, my best moment had to be winning my first major race at the South African Championships then following through to win the All-Africa as a junior.” – Daily News on Sunday

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