Ironwoman Christina’s Games joy

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There was not a cloud in the sky on July 14, 2013 as Christina Mackenzie took her place in the starting blocks for the women’s triathlon event in the baking Bermuda heat.

She had donned her Western Isles branded gear and steeled herself to tackle head-on the Olympic distance triathlon on the international sporting stage.

A seasoned triathlete, Christina, was at the very top of her form and although having just three years training and experience under her belt she was already a force to be reckoned with.

And while she was making her Natwest Island Games début this was to be a day both she, and fellow home triathlete Kerry MacPhee, would make history and make the Western Isles proud.

On this day she pedalled to glory on her gruelling 40K cycle, pushed through the agony of a 10K run and swam 1.5K through the turquoise waters of Clearwater Bay to win team gold with Kerry.

By the end of an energy-sapping 2:23:25 Christina and Kerry knew they had done well but just how well they had done was a surprise to even the athletes as Natwest Island Games chiefs kept a lid on the winners until Christina spotted the flagpoles being readied at the podium.

“I couldn’t believe it when we won the team gold,” she reflected. “I knew we were in the running because Kerry had won individual gold and my own times had been quite good. I had an idea we might have medalled as my own bike and run were decent but we didn’t have any idea of what position we had until they were getting the podium ready.

“That was the way they did it so we were all standing around wondering where we finished when we saw the Western Isles flag going up on the team gold position and we were just so thrilled.

“They did so well to keep us in suspense and the whole team erupted then when we saw it. It was very emotional.”

Christina and Kerry had worked wonders to take team gold back to the Western Isles camp in the opening event of the Games. But their success is even more remarkable when Christina reveals she had only met Kerry a couple of days earlier.

“I didn’t know her before Bermuda,” revealed Christina. “We were staying together and competing together so we have become very good friends as a result but we didn’t know each other at all. We gelled together very well which was good as we had to compete in the very first event at the Island Games a few days after we arrived.”

It is just over three years since Christina, who is a sports centre manager, was bitten by the triathlon and ironman bug, and she has no intention of slowing down.

“I only started running about three years ago with things like 10Ks, just for fitness, but I ended up doing marathons.

“In my training for these I always used to do a bit of swimming and cycling to take some pressure of my legs and doing these tempted me to try my hand at triathlons.

“I started off doing 750m swim, 20K cycle, 5K run but the first one I did I actually did on a mountain bike. I really enjoyed it and that’s what got me into it.

“I was keen to take part in the Island Games and I knew the triathlon was an event we could compete for so I made contact with the guys at WIIGA to register an interest.

“The Games were literally like the Olympics to me with the opening ceremony and the anthems and everything else. It was so much bigger than I expected and the Games are on a huge scale.

“Competing on such a scale was something I never imagined or expected last year.

“As we were representing the Western Isles I was very keen to do as well as I possibly could but I didn’t expect to come home with any medals, let alone three.

“It was difficult in the heart, especially so in the half marathon with the constant running but to be honest I enjoyed that as well.”

In addition to storming onto the top of the podium in the team triathlon event Christina also picked up a silver and a bronze gong to complete a full set of medals at her first Island Games.

“Yes, we also won team silver in the time trials which was both Kerry and I’s first time doing the event.

“I really enjoyed that event too on the bike but it was a very new event which saw us go a minute apart so we never knew who was placing ahead or behind us .

“It was 34-miles flat out over a beautiful course around the town. That was the biggest distraction – the scenery was stunning.

“I was really happy with my performance in the half marathon too. With the heat and everything else I was never going to set a new PB but we did well. The training and adrenaline, and knowing it was our last event, kept me going and pushing all the way and to win team bronze was brilliant.”

Despite returning home with a hat-trick of medals Christina was straight back into competitive action with the Ironman UK event which pushed her to the physical limit.

She added: “This was an event I’ve been training for all year. It was very tough, over 11-hours long, but I enjoyed it.

“Its still triathlon season till the end of October so I have plenty events coming up and then the Dublin marathon before working towards another Ironman next year.”

And of course pulling on the WIIGA branding again in Jersey in 2015? “Definitely,” roared Christina, “if selected of course.

“I’d love to be selected again and it was such a tremendous experience.”