Rapid rise continues as Ironman star Joe Skipper targets British record

Triathlete Joe Skipper.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Triathlete Joe Skipper.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

The remarkable rise of Norwich triathlon star Joe Skipper is showing no signs of slowing.

TAUPO, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 05: Joe Skipper during the 2016 Taupo Ironman on March 5, 2016 in Taupo,

TAUPO, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 05: Joe Skipper during the 2016 Taupo Ironman on March 5, 2016 in Taupo, New Zealand. (Photo by Mead Norton/Getty Images) - Credit: Getty Images

This time last year Skipper was worried that his professional career was slipping away from him as he began to run out of money.

Now the 27-year-old has moved up to third in the all-time British Ironman rankings with a podium finish in New Zealand.

It has been quite a turnaround for Skipper – setting the third fastest bike split in Ironman history along the way – and he has no intention of easing up.

Even a broken collarbone didn't hold up the Lowestoft-born triathlete as he readied himself to fly to the other side of the globe last month.

TAUPO, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 05: Joe Skipper celebrates second place during the 2016 Taupo Ironman on

TAUPO, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 05: Joe Skipper celebrates second place during the 2016 Taupo Ironman on March 5, 2016 in Taupo, New Zealand. (Photo by Mead Norton/Getty Images) - Credit: Getty Images

Skipper was sent flying over the handlebars of his bike when training near Colchester late last year and narrowly missed out on surgery wiping out most of his season.

'There was a lot of biking on the inside trainer, twice a day a lot of the time, and to start off with I was on a cross-trainer for running – and they are so boring,' Skipper said.

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'So I was watching Netflix in the gym at the UEA and things like that, just anything to make it more pleasant.

'Then I could start running so I only actually needed about three weeks of actual run training before I went to Wanaka and then New Zealand was two weeks after that.'

The bad luck was not over yet for the Cringleford-based athlete though, with mechanical problems with his bike preventing him from finishing Challenge Wanaka at the start of his stay in New Zealand.

However, the determination which has carried Skipper from entering his first ever triathlon in 2010, through to a place in the British record books six years later, ensured he did not lose heart.

Competing in Taupo on New Zealand's north island, he completed the 2.4-mile swim in 53 minutes and 11 seconds and the 112-mile cycle in four hours, 25 minutes and 11 seconds. He then finished off the exhausting event with a 26-mile marathon run, in two hours, 45 minutes and 51 seconds for an overall finishing time of eight hours, nine minutes and 37 seconds – and second place on the podium.

'I lost a bit of time on the swim, which I knew I was going to because I couldn't swim for six weeks due to the injury,' the Tri-Anglia member continued.

'Then on the bike I felt really good, cut the lead down to about 40 seconds from five minutes at the end of the swim, and then on the run there were two guys who pulled away at the start and from halfway I gradually started pulling them back and just missed out on the win by about a minute and a half in the end.'

Now Skipper intends to maintain his momentum, as he targets finishing eight minutes and nine seconds faster to break the British record of 08:01.29 when he competes at Challenge Roth in Germany in July.

'It's mainly training now, I am going to do some events, but I'm not going to taper for them like I would for New Zealand, where you have about 10 days where you're really knocking it down,' he explained.

'I would usually do three weeks of hard training and then one week easier, so some of them I'll do like that, try to time it like that, but then I'll just train through because I'm not really that fussed about that and it's closer to Roth as well, so I'll just train for it and if I get a result then that's brilliant.'

He will keep his fitness levels high by competing at Challenge Fuerteventura next month, Challenge Salou in Spain in May and then both Ironman 70.3 in Staffordshire and Challenge Galway in Ireland in June – before stepping up his attempt to break the British record.

Skipper is feeling confident about his chances as well, adding: 'That performance in New Zealand is better than seven hours 59 at Roth, because Roth is a much quicker course, it's so different there.

'The roads in New Zealand are like on our country roads, whereas Roth is like a motorway, it's like riding on the M6! It's a lot of stone chip in New Zealand, so it's quite slow, whereas Roth are the fastest roads, really smooth roads, which is nice for just over 100 miles.'

Perhaps the success of a man who as a teenager used to cycle 28 miles home to Lowestoft from school at Notre Dame High in Norwich, trying to beat his sisters' train journey home, should not be surprising.

The determined look in his eye suggests Skipper is only just getting started.

Do you know of a local sporting success? Contact David Freezer on david.freezer@archant.co.uk or 01603 772418