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Winning gold is a dream come true for Will Atkinson

Driffield athlete Will Atkinson has told the Wolds Weekly that winning the 2023 World Triathlon Aquathlon Championships in Ibiza is a ‘dream come true’.

Former Driffield School & Sixth Form student Atkinson produced a time of 31.22 (Swim 14:15, run 16:03) to cross the finish line 11 seconds ahead of Frenchman Teo Katgely, the athlete who pipped him to the European title in 2022.

Not only was Atkinson’s performance enough to win the 25-29 Male age group, but his time was also fastest across the board, meaning the 27-year-old took the overall honours.

Atkinson’s preparation for his Spanish excursion had been near-perfect, with a victory at the Driffield Triathlon coming around a week before he travelled out for the Worlds.

Having narrowly missed on the Europeans last year when he failed to reel in Katgely on the second leg of the race, Will said he took the lessons he had learned in Bilbao to Ibiza.

Will with wife Emily and mum Elaine, who were in Ibiza to support him.

“It obviously feels great to be a world champion but it’s more a relief than anything else,” he said.

“Some people might think that sounds stupid, but I knew I had the ability to do it and to come second at European Championships last year was an opportunity that I felt I had missed.

“This year, I had to win this race and I feel like I have learnt from my mistakes.

“Finishing second last year was huge motivation for me and I went into the race with a different mindset.

“When I was swimming and one of my opponents was close to me, I made sure I didn’t lose him and that helped when I was on the run and worked brilliantly.”

The world championships took place over several days, with Will travelling out to Ibiza on the Thursday, ahead of his race on May Day Bank Holiday.

This allowed him an opportunity to prepare in a relaxed environment, with temperatures in stark contrast to the bitterly cold spring conditions back home in the Capital of the Wolds.

Fully prepared on race day, Will was in the leading group of athletes after the swimming leg of the aquathlon and after hitting the front early during the run, he left everything out on the course to ensure that’s where he stayed upon reaching the finish line.

“My preparation went really well,” he said. “There was a full week of racing out in Ibiza, with a couple of my mates competing before me, so that was a good excuse to travel over there early.

“I had a few days of training, which included swimming in the sea and running along the course we would be taking in the race.

“It helped me know my way around and acclimatise from the low temperatures I left in England to the 25C that met us in Ibiza.

“It felt like the race went according to plan. I knew it was a long course and that was an advantage for me, as it meant I would be able to stretch out a lead on the swimming leg.

“After setting off, I went straight to the front and swam hard. The two French lads stayed with me, and it was a case of not losing them and staying in my position at the front.

“My transition wasn’t as good as I would have hoped for but when I got out on the run, the French athlete who had beaten me at the European Championships wasn’t too far ahead of me.

“I wanted to get close to him straight away and kicked on. I developed a decent lead, but it felt as though he was on my shoulder all the time.

“That pushed me on, and I didn’t even stop at any of the aid stations for fear of falling over or doing something silly.

“When I saw the final aid station, I knew there was only one kilometre to go, and I decided to go for it and completely empty my tank.

“If he had beaten me at that point, then fair play to him.

I didn’t even look back over that final kilometre and someone told me I had won by 11 seconds when I crossed the finish line.

“Then I found out I had won overall, which made it even better, and I think I am the only athlete from Britain to win the whole competition.

“It’s a relief to finally win the worlds and it’s a dream come true. I’ll be taking part in 10 or 11 races this year, but this is the one I wanted.”

Winning the world championships is just the start of a hectic 2023 season for Atkinson who returns to Spain in less than a months’ time for a tilt at the European Triathlon Championships.

All roads then lead to Germany for another world title shot in July.

“I’m heading to Madrid in around three weeks for the European Triathlon Championships at sprint distance,” he said.

“I’ve only got a short period of preparation for those and then it’s another six weeks before the World Triathlon Championships in Hamburg.

“I’m going to use Madrid as a good warm-up for Hamburg to see where I am, try a few different tactics and have an idea of what works and what doesn’t.

“Winning the world championships was a good way to start the year and let’s hope that continues.”

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