HATFIELD flyer Lucy Charles-Barclay exceeded all expectations to finish fifth on her debut in the Olympic triathlon distance before setting her sights on Paris 2024, writes Josh Graham.

The three-time Ironman World Championship silver medallist found out less than two weeks ago that she had a start at the AJ Bell 2021 World Triathlon Leeds in the shorter-form discipline.

Charles-Barclay, 27, had described the opportunity as a ‘baptism of fire’ but went on to torch the field on the swim before digging in on the bike and the run to record a time of 1:56:50 behind Dutch winner Maya Kingma and fellow Brits Jess Learmonth and Sophie Coldfield, who took second and third.

“I thought top ten would be amazing so coming fifth definitely exceeds my expectations,” she said.

“I found out Wednesday last week and I was umming and ahhing about whether to do it as I hadn’t done the training I’d wanted for this.

“It’s so different to anything I’ve done before. I went in feeling like a novice but I thought ‘you know what, this is all new to me, let’s go in with no pressure and see what happens’.

“Given another race, having another opportunity to work on these skills, hopefully I can only improve from here.

“My ultimate ambition is definitely trying to qualify for the Olympics in Paris. This was something to see if that was possible and I’m in contention for that to be a possibility.”

Hoddesdon-born Charles-Barclay failed to qualify for the Team GB swimming team in the pool or open water in 2012 as a teenager, but could now be on the way to finally achieving her Olympic dream 12 years later following a phenomenal display at Roundhay Park.

“I’ve had a very different journey into triathlon and I’m very fortunate with my background in swimming, which gives me that headstart in the beginning,” she added.

“I had to put in some fairly big efforts to get back on the group on the bike, which I actually quite enjoyed and it’s a good challenge.

“It just shows you don’t have to follow a set path in sport – do what you want to do and make it happen.”

A 4,000-strong partisan crowd roared Charles-Barclay home ahead of experienced American Taylor Spivey on her first World Series outing.

And she said: “I had so many people cheering me, I did not expect that.

“I’m not used to racing in the UK and all I could hear was my name, which was amazing and made a big difference.”

The AJ Bell 2021 World Triathlon Leeds makes its return to the city for the fifth time and represents the pinnacle of triathlon competition in the UK