Barnstaple paratriathlete Taylor sets sights on Tokyo
- Credit: Ben Lumley/British Triathlon
Having seen his Paralympic plans shelved for 12 months, Barnstaple's Michael Taylor swapped Tokyo for Bristol in September and has his eyes firmly focused on this year’s rescheduled Games.
The 25-year-old paratriathlete found himself on the brink of qualification for Tokyo at the start of 2020, having finished fourth on his World Paratriathlon Series debut in Devonport, Australia, in February, four months after clinching a World Cup silver medal in Alanya, Turkey.
Another strong World Cup finish in Abu Dhabi at the start of March could have sealed Taylor’s seat on the plane but the Covid-19 pandemic put the season on ice, and subsequently, his dreams of a Paralympic debut.
With another year to wait Taylor decided to bring forward plans to go back to university to study medicine, and he is now relishing his commitment to both sport and his studies.
“I was really excited for 2020 because of everything that could’ve happened,” said Taylor, who competes in the PTS4 category for paratriathletes with a moderate physical impairment.
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“I was pretty gutted with everything that went on, especially as for ages there didn’t seem to be an end in sight.
“I’d been training full-time as part of the British Paratriathlon performance squad in Loughborough since the previous November, but I decided to go back to studying after coronavirus hit.
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“Studying medicine is something I’ve wanted to do since before I lost my leg, and the plan was always to pursue it after Tokyo. But with the postponement, I decided to bring it forward a year.
“I previously studied physiotherapy at Cardiff University so a lot of that is relevant, and so far I’m really enjoying it. I think I missed having something else to focus on other than training, and the balance is working well.”
Taylor - a two-time GBR Paratriathlon national champion in 2017 and 2018 - has embraced the opportunity to focus on training throughout 2020, and believes he now actually stands a better chance of sealing Tokyo qualification when competition resumes.
He said: “I’ve trained throughout the year because I just really enjoy it. I moved back to my parents’ house in Devon at the start of the first lockdown, and it was just a really good place to be with all the nice weather we had.
“I got out on lots of nice runs and rides, and I was able to go sea swimming which was really useful with all the pools being closed. I also took the paddle board out when it was a bit colder!
“Now I’m in Bristol I’m loving being able to explore new places on my bike, and I’ve also been training at the University of Bath a couple of times a week, which has been great.
“I feel like I’ve come a long way, especially with my cycling and running. Having that extra time to really focus on certain aspects without any interruption has been really beneficial, and I do feel a lot fitter and that I’ve improved hugely.”
With a number of events now pencilled in for the spring, Taylor is itching to make his eagerly awaited return to competition and finally get his Tokyo qualification over the line.
Having been inspired to take up triathlon after seeing the likes of Alistair and Jonny Brownlee pick up Olympic gold and silver in Rio four years ago, Taylor insists the opportunity to emulate his heroes on the biggest stage would be a dream come true.
He added: “The announcement of races has really boosted my motivation and I can’t wait to get back out there now.
“Qualifying for Tokyo would be mad. Everyone’s always asking me whether I’m going, so it would be amazing to finally say yes for sure rather than not knowing!
“I lost my leg in the summer of 2016, and watching triathlon at the Olympics and Paralympics made me want to give it a go. To go from watching it on TV to competing five years on – it would be epic.”
*Michael Taylor is part of the British Triathlon performance programme which is supported by UK Sport and the National Lottery. For more information on Michael, view his profile here: https://www.britishtriathlon.org/gb-teams/elite-team/athletes.