WIIGA Squad Preview: Triathlon

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‘Iron Maiden’ Christina is ready for amazing event

Over the next eight weeks the Stornoway Gazette will take our readers inside each of the team squads set to represent the Western Isles Island Games Association at this summer’s NatWest Island Games in Gotland.

Each issue we will aim to focus on a different squad ahead of the games which will take place over a week in late June.

To kick off our series we begin with a sport in which the Western Isles is sending just a single athlete into sporting battle, but the triathlon team manager and sole competitor has the medals, the honours and the scars to show for her ongoing sporting adventures.

Christina Mackenzie, the Stornoway Iron Maiden, is a regular competitor and winner in ultra-endurance and triathlon events and this summer she will be flying the flag for the Western Isles at the Island Games.

Christina has previous Games’ experience as she competed in Bermuda 2013 and returned to the Hebrides with a hat-trick of gongs stuffed in her hand luggage for her efforts with a gold from the women’s team triathlon event – alongside Kerry MacPhee – a silver for women’s team half marathon and a bronze in the women’s team trial.

“I can’t wait to get out there and enjoy the atmosphere of the Island Games as it was amazing in Bermuda,” she said with a smile.

“The competition at the Island Games is immense but on the day anything can happen and all you can do is give it your all.”

She continued: “With the help of Kerry (MacPhee) we took the gold in the triathlon in Bermuda but I don’t think I could persuade her to do it this time,” she said with a laugh.

“It will be different this time too as Bermuda was a non wetsuit event while I’d expect Gotland to have wetsuits. In theory this should improve buoyancy and be quicker. Every couple of seconds or minutes help. I think the bike course is also relatively flat which should help me get my head down and go for it.

“I do kind of wish I had a team mate to go for the team event and also for morale. It’s always good to have someone beside you.”

Christina’s sporting CV is packed with body defying, daunting distances and remarkable challenges. She is running, swimming and cycling proof that the difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a person’s inner will and steely determination.

As you would expect competing at such a high and exhausting level doesn’t come without cost and Christina often competes and trains with injuries ranging from a dislocated shoulder and a spinal issue which she was advised required surgery.

She is rarely 100 per cent fit she admits but she is always 100 per cent focussed and determined not only to take part but to compete and challenge for a place on even the loftiest of podiums. I’m having regular physio sessions to help me with my running due to my ongoing hip issue,” she admitted. “I have managed to get my swimming times down to the same level they were at before I dislocated my shoulder. I am also starting back up with the Stirling Tri-Club as well.” 

Her mantelpiece at home in Stirling where she is now settled and working as swimming development officer must be buckling under the sheer weight of her endurance event accolades. Among them is a first place in The Killarney Hardman Long Distance Triathlon. This gruelling event included a 3.8km swim in Lough Lein, Killarney, followed by the iconic Ring of Kerry Cycle with a distance of 180 Km and a marathon of 42.2km in Knockreer Demesne in Killarney National Park, where Christina crossed the line as first woman home.

She also broke the tape as first woman at the end of a mind-boggling gruelling 250KM endurance race across West Donegal, Ireland - by a margin approaching two hours. Stornoway athlete extraordinaire Christina is undoubtedly the kind of athlete who regularly makes the impossible possible.

“It’s still quite early in the season but I have a sprint triathlon on May 28 to ease back into it and the open water. Following that I’ll do a couple of Olympic or standard distance ones before Gotland.” 

Her undeniable endurance hasn’t gone unnoticed with Christina handed a call up to the British Triathlon team – something which she says came as a complete shock.

She added: “I’ve been selected to compete in the European Championships in Amsterdam at Ironman distance in September. I only found out last week and they had been tracking me by my last few races. I am absolutely chuffed to bits about it but Gotland is the big focus for me this year and I can’t wait now.”

The NatWest Island Games will be held in Gotland from June 24 till 30th.

This will be the seventh Games that WIIGA have competed at since joining the IIGA in 2003.