Publié le: 09 Juin 2008
Par: Penel Arnaud
Kate Allen, assidue à 'lentraînement en compagnie de son coachKate Allen et le système de SuuntoAllen posant pour ses sponsors

Kate Allen Gambles Olympic Hopes on World Championships

Photo par Nick Warren

Traduction(s) : fr

Kate Allen knows exactly how a split second can change everything. In one short, horrible moment, the 38-year-old’s preparations for her Olympic triathlon title defense were jeopardised by a high-speed crash during the bike leg at the International Triathlon Union (ITU) New Plymouth World Cup in New Zealand in early April.

The resulting injuries plunged her season into chaos, leaving her with no choice but to put all her bets on a high finish at the ITU World Championships in Vancouver, Canada on June 8 if she has any hope on being selected for the Olympic Games in August.

After the fall, she needed 22 stitches in her face, hand and arm, spent five hours in hospital being X-rayed and has had to completely reassess and rebuild her racing programme. More frustratingly, according to Allen, the incident was entirely avoidable.

“The fall itself I don’t remember,” says Allen, “but then I remember being face first on the tarmac, in shock basically.”

“It wasn’t just an ‘accident’, let’s leave it at that.”

It has been reported that Lisa Huetthaler, a fellow Austrian team member caused the crash and the matter is currently under investigation by the ITU and Austrian federation. As a footnote, Huetthaler recently returned a positive A sample for EPO, and is awaiting the results of the B sample.

Now, eight weeks since the crash, Allen, an Australian-born Austrian national, has the biggest test of her career. With the help of her support team, she is fighting for the third and final spot in the Austrian team, and she is depending on a strong performance in Canada.

“It’s everything or nothing for Vancouver,” she says. “I have to return a good result, at least a top ten placing, or I probably won’t be selected.

“I have good and bad days and I have to see what we can bring together for that one day. We are very scientific with our training program, but right now we are on the limit.

“I had almost two weeks off training and had to start from the almost the beginning again. I had to go back to base (endurance) training first, then build intensity.”

Over-training is a constant risk, but Allen and her coaches are carefully monitoring any signs of fatigue using a system designed by Finnish sports instrument company Suunto.

“It’s a Catch 22 situation really,” she explains. “I have to be fit but I have to take every day at a time. We have a training plan, which I am trying to stick to but I can’t always follow it and we have to adapt.”

It’s a tough break for Allen, who won the 2004 Olympic triathlon in Athens in magnificent style, coming back from 28th place after the bike leg and passing the final competitor just 150m before the finish.

Growing up in South Eastern Australia, she began running at an early age, but only took up triathlon at the age of 26 after being persuaded to give it a go by her future husband and now coach, Marcel Diechtler.

Since then she has achieved top positions in Ironman distance triathlons, as well as success on the ITU World Cup circuit. She recorded the fastest ever debut Ironman time in Austria in 2002 with 8hr 58min 24sec and was fifth at the Ironman Hawaii World Championships in 2006.

She has been runner up in the European Championships twice, in 2004 and 2007, and third at 2007’s ITU World Cup round in Salford.

Despite the enormity of the task facing her Allen is a determined athlete and will pull out all the stops to book her ticket to Beijing. Deciding to miss the Madrid World Cup in May in order to concentrate solely on Vancouver, Diechtler says she has a very good chance of selection.

“We are doing things right,” he says, “she’s quite fresh and has trained extremely hard.”

“I would have had to taper down (for Madrid),” says Allen, “then train hard again for half a week and then fly out to Canada. Instead I’ve had almost three weeks of solid training to get a good result.”

“We’re extremely practical,” Allen continues. “We don’t make mistakes and we have all the knowledge from the previous years of racing.”

Having a somewhat untested level of fitness means her World Championship race strategy will be decided on the day.

“I’m going to race as hard as I can. I’ll try not to lose time on the swim and then get up to the front on the bike. It really depends on the others, and I’ll just have to take it as it comes.”

However, as Allen well knows, come race day, anything can happen - even split seconds can make all the difference.

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