BIDFORD-ON-AVON’S Rachel Kirkwood is celebrating world championship success after claiming gold at an international triathlon event in Spain.
The 50-year-old NHS worker finished three minutes ahead of her age-group competitors at the 2019 ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships in Pontevedra to secure the gold medal.
Kirkwood, who is Strategic Lead for Allied Health Professions at the South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust, tackled a kilometre-long swim, followed by a 30km mountain bike ride and a 7km run to secure Great Britain’s only gold medal at the championships.
She said: “It was mind-blowing to learn that I had won. “It’s hardly something you expect as a 50-year-old with a full-time job in the NHS.
“I didn’t find out where I’d placed immediately after the race.
“It was only after chatting to a couple of fellow competitors that I learned the news.
“All of the women competitors set off at once, after the men have staggered starts for each age group, so it was impossible to predict where I’d finished.
“It was particularly interesting for me when I started to overtake some of the men competing.
“Some were less happy than others!
“I knew I had done reasonably well, but to get the gold was completely unexpected and I’m thrilled to have won.”
Kirkwood’s love for endurance challenges came after training for and completing the 874-mile Land’s End to John O’Groats cycle ride soon after turning 40, and going on to win the women’s category at the 2014 Luxembourg Ironman.
She has since picked up a silver medal at Xterra Belgium in June 2017, allowing her to qualify for the Xterra World Championships in Hawaii later that year, before preparing for her ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships success in Pontevedra.
“I’m enormously grateful for the support I’ve had from my family, friends, and husband Stuart, as well as my fellow athletes and the UK team, and to the organisers for putting on a fantastic event,” added Kirkwood.