Steadman targets Rio glory for legion of supporters
Lauren Steadman has medals on the mind as the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games draw ever closer.
But the reigning world and European champion admits claiming gold won’t be as easy as the statistics perhaps suggest.
With her third Games on the horizon, the 23-year-old – who competed in swimming at the Beijing and London Paralympics – is widely tipped to bring home the gold medal after winning the European title for the fourth successive year in May.
Add to that the world title she claimed last September and it’s easy to see why the University of Portsmouth graduate is the favourite.
But as the excitement continues to bubble, Steadman insists she is determined to succeed to thank those who have helped her on her journey to Rio.
‘I’m definitely excited,’ she said.
‘It was really good to get the automatic selection so early on in the season and it’s just a case now of nailing the small things in the month leading up to Rio.
‘The Paralympics for me have changed over the course of the three Games.
‘I first went when I was 15 so it was very exciting but a bit daunting and then going into London I was a bit more experienced.
‘Going into Rio, my priorities have changed because I’m going in as world number one.
‘So it’s a case of trying to stay ahead of the rest of the world to bring home that medal.
‘Paratriathlon makes its debut at Rio and if all goes well and we have a successful Team GB, it definitely looks good for the future of the sport.
‘I’d like to think I have moved the standard of the GB women forward.
‘The rest of the world sees me as favourite because I have such a lead at the moment but I’m aware every other girl is trying to beat me so I’m expecting quite tough competition in Rio. A lot of people have invested their time and effort in me, so it’s not just me racing as the athlete.
‘It would be fantastic to bring home that gold medal, especially a Paralympic medal, for the country.
‘I’m doing it as much for everyone else who has belief in me as myself.’
While Steadman prepares to pull on the Great Britain colours in Brazil in September, another strip she frequently adorns is the purple of her university.
Over 60 per cent of gold medallists since 1992 have participated in BUCS sport, with 56 members of Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics competing for Great Britain at the World University Games.
And for Steadman, who completed a psychology degree before starting her business masters, the guidance she received from her university and BUCS was pivotal.
‘I represented Portsmouth not at triathlon but in cross-country and I did a bit of swimming for them as well,’ she said.
‘I think BUCS has a fantastic atmosphere and it’s great to see all the students come together from all over the country to race.
‘I definitely think competing at university has helped me get to the level I am racing at now.
‘Racing at university level is just as daunting as racing for your country.
‘I’m always proud to represent Portsmouth and I believe everyone else is when they represent their university.’
n British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) is the national governing body for Higher Education (HE) sport in the UK, organising leagues and competitions for more than 150 institutions across 52 different sports. Supported by Deloitte, BUCS offers programmes to athletes from a grass roots level through to Commonwealth and Olympic Games hopefuls. bucs.org.uk