Sport can sometimes be the best teacher. Lessons are learned that can be greatly beneficial in life that sometimes help aid even the most difficult of situations for athletes. However, for Great Britain’s Ben Dijkstra, that lesson is a little bit simpler, yet has proven to be just as life-changing:

“I learned to never put my sunglasses on my head in the last 10 metres of a race ever again or have any confusion in the transition zone.”

In 2014, Dijkstra was awarded the gold medal at the Youth Olympic Games hosted in Nanjing, China. A gold medal that was earned even after a 23-second deficit out of the swim, a bike rack confusion in the second transition, an almost penalty and a closer-than-ever photo finish. And while the victory came with the added bonus of drama and excitement, the experience was one that the 17-year old would relive over and over again.

A native of Loughborough, England, Dijkstra grew up with a strong running background. Drawn to long distance and cross country racing, he saw success at an early age, winning multiple competitions starting at just eight years old. And as if he was foreshadowing the important role that sunglasses would mean to him just eight years later in Nanjing, Dijkstra used to race with his lucky sunglasses, which he believed was the reason he was undefeated in his first three races.

A few years later, Dijkstra decided he wanted to try a new challenge. Frequently he would go mountain biking around nearby trails with his father, so it dawned on him that he should attempt a new sport that would combine the two – triathlon.

“I used to cycle with my dad on some trails near home, so I thought if I could just get through the swim then I thought I would be able to enjoy myself on the bike and the run. So I did my first triathlon, it was a local one. The whole atmosphere from that one race, I was just hooked straight away. I absolutely loved it, I did three triathlons that year,” said Dijkstra.

Since he was an experienced runner, Dijkstra was lucky to already have a phenomenal running coach, the same coach that introduced him to competing when he was just in primary school. It was his swim that needed the most work. When starting out in the sport, he would swim a 300-metre distance in just over six minutes. But now he has improved to swimming over 500 metres in the same time, a massive jump and personal accomplishment for the Brit. Ben accredits his improvement to help from coaches and focusing on his…