Bid for Olympic Glory Squadron Leader Nick Davies
If you’d have told me in 2005, the year I took up triathlon, that I would be overtaking the reigning World No 1 at a World Championship Race and be a contender for the Olympic team, I would have thought you’d gone bananas. But here I (Davies, GB) was at Hyde Park in early August, burning up Javier Gomez (Spain) with my prospects for an Olympic slot looking pretty good.
All true…though maybe slightly out of context. Whilst Javier is an elite triathlete (year of birth 1983) and was just entering the cycle course on his several-thousand pound bike for a practice session, I (in my O-Level year when Mr Gomez was born) was pedaling like mad on my hired mountain-bike to check that the course was correctly laid out, that all the marshals had been fed and watered and were ready for the start of the elite women’s race. A place on the team was indeed at stake, but on the 2012 Games Organising Team for the Triathlon – a three-month commitment over the next 10 months helping plan, organise and deliver the men’s and women’s races.
In February 2011 the British Triathlon Federation advertised for volunteers to help at the Olympics and while I was looking at those job details I noticed that some temporary jobs were available – closing date that day. I hastily knocked together a CV and applied for the three Run Course and Bike Course managers’ posts online. Although I’d been Race Director for RAF Triathlon for 3 years, where I was involved in organising about 12 races, I have little experience of organising major commercial events so thought my chances were slim – if nothing else, the interview experience would be worth having when the spectre of redundancy was hovering around the corner. Following my selection for interview at Canary Wharf my wife thought it may be worth pointing out a detail I seemed to have overlooked – I already have a job. I decided I’d deal with that problem in the unlikely event that it arose, found my suit and set off for my first interview since 1990. The interviewers were all big-cheeses on the British triathlon scene and the line of questioning was as expected although they did seem concerned that, as a military man, I would be an autocratic “shouter” reluctant to follow orders handed down to me by my youngers-and-betters (I pointed out that this would be no change from work, where all the Wg Cdrs seem to be the same age as Policemen). I must have been fairly convincing as I was offered the job of Run/ Bike Course Manager subject to a satisfactory performance at Hyde Park. My wife’s point then had to be addressed; fortunately, my boss at the Air Warfare Centre and the wider RAF have been very supportive and I have been granted a “sabbatical” using various types of leave.
The Hyde Park event was a World Champs race that the International Triathlon Union (the sport’s world governing body) had bravely handed over to our fledgling team a week before to make the final arrangements and manage not only the elite races but the amateur races for over 4000 triathletes competing in standard distance, sprint distance, junior aquathlon (swim – run) and paratriathlon events. The elites were following the proposed Olympic course of a single 1500 m lap of the Serpentine before running to their bikes for 42 km of cycling over 7 laps taking in Buckingham Palace and Wellington Arch, before a 4-lap 10 km run around the lake. Wew also got to work with aspiring Olympian team leaders we would depend upon to re-arrange the course, manage our 400 volunteers and deal with irate locals who, amongst other things, just couldn’t understand why the prospect of being killed by a 30 mph cyclist should disrupt their direct route to little Nipper’s tennis lessons, or the presence of 400 swimmers should prevent a leisurely breaststroke across the width of the lake. Fortunately, we had a balanced team of marshals with significantly more patience than me (though the 2 am start didn’t put me in a particularly diplomatic mood).
In the end the race went well, with GB taking first in men’s and women’s races, no major accidents and less disruption to traffic than you’d expect when you shut down Hyde Park Corner and The Mall. As a result I start my job on a part-time basis in July 12 and look forward to riding with the best in the world again.