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May 11, 22

The ‘bumpy’ road to gold for Jess Learmonth

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As British Olympic gold medallist, Jess Learmonth (MBE), flies out to take on the world’s best at the World Triathlon Championship race in Yokahama this week; she reveals that the road to gold has not been easy, with dyslexia crushing her confidence as a teenager.

Shying away from university, and leaving sixth form study to get a job, Jess was pushed towards roles in retail and admin.

During this challenging time, her only outlet was sport. And she found she was good at it.

It wasn’t until Jess was 23 years old at John Charles Centre of Sport swimming pool in Leeds, and seeing Alistair and Johnny Brownlee training that she thought a career in sport may be possible. She explains:

“Whilst my friends were brilliant at maths and English, I loved sport. But the system never considered that a viable career – I mean who does at that age - so I just got put into a generic pot of kids being recommended a 9-5 job.

“Looking back, I had so much to offer at that age but got pigeonholed into jobs that I felt I’d struggle with.

“My confidence went through the floor and it completely extinguished my drive for success.”

Despite such a setback, Jess continued to train with swimming one of her favourite pastimes. She says:

“I remember going to the pool during my day off and just happened to see the Brownlee brothers training.

“That’s when the penny dropped. I thought to myself, ‘if they can go training instead of going to work – why can’t I?’”

That was the moment Jess’ road to gold began.

Fast forward four years, and Jess would go on to win two silver medals at her debut commonwealth games in 2018; and winning gold at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

“Through sport, and the simple idea that it could be my job,” adds Jess. “I once again found my confidence, worked hard and the rest, as they say, is history.”

In 2021, Jess was awarded an MBE for services to triathlon – an honour that in many ways is yet to sink in.

“When it comes to the MBE my mind is still blown,” she added.

“I sometimes look back to those dark times where my dyslexia and confidence hit an all-time low and I sometimes still find myself wondering if it’s all real.

“I think Dyslexia is still so misunderstood, and it presents problems for young people trying to progress in life.

“Even as a professional sports person, it presented problems that I have had to learn to overcome.

“At the top of any sport, you are expected to interact and work with the media and with my dyslexia I struggled with this and I am only starting to feel comfortable, but it is continual process of personal development.

“I hope my story helps inspire others to find their passion and follow it. You never know where it will lead. I am hoping over the coming years to play a role to actively help young people on their own journeys but first my pot of gold is waiting for me in Birmingham and Paris – so watch this space.”

Now one of the most celebrated British triathletes, Jess has her sights firmly set on making her mark at this year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, before striking gold at the 2024 summer Olympics in Paris.

Jess is supported by HUUB, New Balance, Fi’zi:k saddles and shoes and Ekoi Helmets.

To find out more about Jess’ progress follow her on Instagram @jesslearmonth

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