3 Jun 2008

Helen Tucker 14Bridgend triathlete Helen Tucker is hoping she has done everything she can to secure her flight to Beijing. Finishing second at the Madrid World Cup, she achieved the Olympic triathlon qualification criteria.Helen Tucker 20

She must now face an anxious four week wait when it is expected that Team GB’s triathlon contingent will be named. Just days before she competes in the World Championships in Vancouver (8 June), things are certainly looking up:

"Last year was a nightmare – I only did one last race as I was continuously injured and it has taken a long time to get over it."

After lengthy rehabilitation, Tucker embarked on a points-scoring campaign in a bid to make her comeback:

"I did some races in South America early in the year to get points and they were really positive – I had wins in Argentina and Chile. I qualified for World Cups in Australia, New Zealand and Japan which all went ok.

"And then I had the trials in five weeks and thought, "this is it". I had to get stuck into some hard running."

Helen Tucker 10She has now been nominated for selection by the British Triathlon Federation to the British Olympic Association. And it’s certainly pay-off for the determination to return to form – a characteristic also well known of her fiancé Marc Jenkins. He famously ran with his bike on his shoulder after suffering a mechanical fault in the Athens Olympic Games in 2004.

He is now struggling with injury but has been heavily involved with his girlfriend’s progress. He is now one half of her coaching team:

"I have two main coaches – Marc and Rick Velati. I think the combination has really helped me over the last few months. Marc is so experienced and has spent time with all the best athletes in the world and has learnt so much from them."

If all goes to plan and Tucker does indeed end up on the pontoon in Beijing, her supporters can be comforted by the fact that she has already excelled over the course:

"I finished third in a World Cup on the course in 2005. Having raced well on the course is obviously really positive. It has changed a little bit but it’s good to go out there with familiarity. There is quite a hill on the bike and the run’s hilly too but I think it’s the humidity which will make it difficult."

After she has raced at the World Championships this weekend, the Welsh star will be busy acclimatising for the challenge ahead:

"I’m going to be training in Texas which is quite a humid environment and the Olympic holding camp for triathlon is in Korea which is also very humid."

Tucker’s ascendancy into the sporting elite was assured by bronze medal podium finishes at the Under 23 European Championships, ITU Salford World Cup and ITU Beijing World Cup. She had been a very realistic medal target for Team Wales at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne but a nasty bike crash put a stop to any podium hopes. Despite vicious cuts, she still managed to finish home in 14th place.