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World U23 triathlon champion Matt Sharp ready for 2012 fight

By Helen Murray
BBC London 94.9

Matt Sharp
Sharp won the 2011 World Under-23 triathlon title in Beijing

World under-23 triathlon champion Matt Sharp says he is ready to fight for the third qualifying spot for the London 2012 Olympics.

Two places look set to go to Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee after the siblings met the qualifying standard at August's Hyde Park triathlon.

"I'm going to fight as hard as I can for it and see how it comes out," Sharp, 22, told BBC London 94.9.

"I think I've got a good shot, but it's not going to be easy."

The task is even harder because of the current strength in depth of British triathlon.

Helen Jenkins was crowned women's 2011 world champion at the season-ending grand final in Beijing, where Alistair Brownlee took the senior men's title and his brother Jonathan finished second overall.

Sharp, who grew up in Enfield, led a British one-two-three across the line in the men's under-23 race.

He also faces competition for the third qualifying place from other experienced senior Great Britain triathletes.

"It's one of the hardest sports, I think, and there are possibly 10 guys who could get it," he said.

"There's Tim Don and former under-23 world champion Will Clarke who've already been to the Olympics. They're tried and tested, solid athletes.

"Then there's all us under-23 guys who are still fighting for the spot."

The former Enfield and Haringey runner says he would love the opportunity to be involved at the Olympics in his home city.

"I'm from London so just to compete would be amazing," said Sharp.

He plans to target one of the three races left that count towards 2012 qualification and give it everything he has.

Great Britain Under 23s winning in Beijing
Great Britain currently has 12 World Champions across all disciplines of triathlon and paratriathlon, including Chrissie Wellington at the Ironman distance and Jonathan Brownlee in the sprint category
The Brownlee brothers, together with Helen Jenkins and Jodie Stimpson, won the 2011 Team World Championships
London will host the 2013 Triathlon World Championship Grand Final

"Realistically I'd have to get a top-five finish, which is possible, but it's very difficult to do," he added.

"It will definitely go down to a jury's decision because unless somebody else gets a podium or wins a race, which is probably unlikely, then a panel will have to decide who gets it.

"Either way, there'll be a lot of guys who are unhappy about it but that's sport."

The 22-year-old started triathlon as a teenager after going along to a few races with a friend's father.

His talents were spotted by British Triathlon and, after coming up through development squads, he has been training full time at the High Performance Centre in Loughborough for the past two years.

He currently works with head performance coach Mark Pearce.

On an average day, Sharp is in the pool by 6am for a 5km swim. After breakfast he does a three-hour bike ride and then after lunch he will run for 45-60 minutes.

"You don't get that much time to rest and that's why it's quite full-on because you have to recover as clever as you train, which is why it's so enjoyable because it's such a challenge," he said.

Sharp has struggled with numerous injuries in the past, so the lottery-funded athlete says he is pleased to have finished the 2011 season both as Under-23 World Champion and injury free.

"It's been fantastic. I finished it on a high, winning the world championships. I had a lot of podiums, I won some ITU races," he said.

"It's gone really well as I've had some injuries in the past so this year has really helped me out."

While the Brownlee brothers train together in Leeds, many of Britain's younger triathletes, including Sharp, are based together at British Triathlon's centre at Loughborough University.

Nevertheless, Sharp claims the Brownlees are a great model for everyone involved in the sport.

"The fact they're British is quite inspirational. Just trying to get to their level, or better than their level, is really the goal, to be the best in the world," he said.

"Their level of dedication and how fast they can go is quite inspirational and it gives the other guys a lot of motivation to get up each day thinking 'if I'm going to beat these guys, I have to train hard'."

Sharp says he will aim for the 2012 senior World Triathlon Championships and the 2016 Olympics if he fails to qualify for 2012.

But he says there are no secrets to Britain's current success in the sport.

"You have to be clever with your training and it's just hard work at the end of the day," he added.

"The guy who works the hardest and has the most ability is probably going to win the race."



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