Non Stanford relishes 'luxury' of early Rio Olympics place

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Stanford and Holland qualify for Rio

Wales' Non Stanford is relishing the "luxury" of having qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games' triathlon 11 months before she bids for gold.

Stanford, 26, took second place at the World Triathlon Grand Final in Chicago to secure Team GB selection.

Fellow Briton Vicky Holland also secured her place at next year's Rio Games by finishing third behind American Gwen Jorgensen.

"What a luxury. That's a massive boost in scenario for us," said Stanford.

"I means now we can focus on the games next year and not have to worry about having to peak too early to try and qualify by March, April time."

Stanford won the world Under-23 title in 2012 and followed that with the the senior title the following year.

October's a month off for Stanford

But injuries ruled Stanford out of most of the 2014 season, including the Commonwealth Games, and she began her bid to win selection for Rio at the ITU World Triathlon Series event in Yokohama in May 2015.

That campaign ended successfully in Chicago where Welsh compatriot and two-time title-holder Helen Jenkins finished 11th.

Hannah Mills and Saskia Clark
Hannah Mills (L) and Saskia Clark won 470 class silver at the 2012 Games

In the process Swansea-bred Stanford became the second Welsh competitor to secure her Rio place after 470 class sailor Hannah Mills.

"I learnt a lot of lessons in 2014 in regards to preparing for a major games and how you build up to it and not getting too excited too soon again," Stanford said.

"So I've got that underneath my belt now and I can use that to hopefully best prepare for the Olympics.

"I'll have a month off in October and start slowly building up from there."

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Stanford was "delighted" with her efforts in Chicago, where she led during the run only for Jorgenson to produce the decisive burst.

The stress of striving for success

"It hasn't really sunk in yet," said Stanford.

"I think I managed to have three hours sleep last night because I couldn't quite switch my mind off, I was so excited about it.

"It was pretty tough and I don't think I quite realised how much stress I was under until I finished the race and it felt like there was a massive weight lifted off my shoulders.

"It was a really hard race. The swim was really hard.

"I led until about seven-and-a-half/eight kilometres [of the run] and Jorgenson, who's been absolutely unstoppable this year, unleashed a bit of a kick and I couldn't quite go with it.

"But it was all about the podium and I was more racing the girl who was in fourth just to make sure I was on that podium."

Stanford was joined in automatic Team GB selection by third-placed Holland in Chicago.

That leaves Jenkins to rival Jody Stimpson, who finished sixth, for the remaining British women's place in Rio.