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Be inspired every day with Living North

Meet the Triathlete from Newcastle Aiming for a Place at the 2024 Summer Olympics

Kate Waugh Darren Wheeler, Instagram @thatcameraman
March 2024
Reading time 4 Minutes

Living North meet Kate Waugh, a triathlete from Newcastle who has been hitting her stride on an international level

We catch up with her as she prepares to vie for a spot on Team GB at the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics.

Ordinarily Kate would be two sessions down and gearing up for her final training block of the day at this point mid afternoon but she spoke to us from a ‘rest day’ (she only had one session in the pool that morning) in Monte Gordo, Portugal, where she will be training until May before heading to the Pyrenees to train at altitude.

On an average day she would expect to dive into the water at around 8am until about 9.30am. Her next session is either a midday cycle or run. ’On a bike day it’s two and a half to three hours, which might include some hill reps on the bike,’ she says. ‘Then, at 5pm, it’s back out again. Maybe “just an easy run” this time.’ Kate then has dinner, gets to bed early, and repeats.

Her schedule is intense, but her hours are much more civilised than when she was a teenager. ‘I had to get up around 4.30am,’ she explains. ‘Looking back I must have been very good at living off a lot of sleep deprivation.’

If you’re wondering how a teenager gets to a point where they voluntarily get out of bed hours before most people who are snoozing through their alarms, Kate says that her commitment to sport began very young as she’s always been surrounded by sport. She has been swimming and running, first with Gateshead Harriers and then with Birtley Harriers, for as long as she can remember. Compounding her progression into triathlon, were her father and grandfather, whom she describes as ‘cycling fanatics’.

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World Triathlon, Wagner Araujo World Triathlon, Wagner Araujo

She competed in her first triathlon when she was eight, and by 12 she was competing on a national level. ‘It just grew from there,’ Kate explains. ‘Every summer [I was] aiming toward some race or another, and then the level of the race grew. Now my biggest races of the year are world champs and my aim this summer is to try and qualify for my first Olympic Games.’

‘I have to keep reminding myself how much progression I’ve made. The younger me just did it for fun so, reflecting back, it’s a crazy journey.’

While we might be continually prompting her to look back on how far she’s come, it’s clear that her general philosophy is to stay firmly rooted in the present. ‘I accumulate the hours of work and I don’t obsess about the long term goals,’ Kate says. ‘Being with my training group is super important,’ she adds, ‘because they’re a really nice group, and they’re my friends as well. It makes it fun.’

This approach is consistent even when things aren’t going her way, as was the case last summer when she sustained a back injury in the run up to an Olympic test event. ‘Initially it’s soul-destroying when you’re prepping up for races,’ Kate admits. ‘But it’s important during that time to reframe your mindset into: “what can I do each day to make myself a little bit better? Or show a little bit of progression? Or get myself a little bit closer to being fit and healthy again?”.’

Having said this, the last 18 months have been defined by a string of what were, by her own admission, breakthrough performances. In 2022 Kate won the U23 World Triathlon Championships in Abu Dhabi. This year, having outgrown the U23 race, she came second in the finals in Pontevedra, having won her first Super League race in Toulouse a few weeks prior. These performances culminated with an overall win of the 2023 Super League Triathlon Championships at the grand finalé in Neom in October.

‘Now my biggest races of the year are world champs and my aim this summer is to try and qualify for my first Olympic Games’

These were all huge moments for her career, but the best results have been the ones that her parents were there to celebrate admits Kate. ‘It’s been super emotional, because they were there on the sidelines at my first triathlon,’ she says. Indeed, although she gives special mention to Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, Kate says that her biggest inspiration for as long as she can remember has always been her mum. ‘I just see her as such a strong and capable woman. I think she’s always been the person that’s given me the best advice.’

One example of this good advice came when Kate’s athletic career started to take off as a teenager. ‘I’m so grateful that my mum would encourage me to go and see my friends when I thought I had to be training 24/7,’ she says, and it’s advice that Kate would urge other young, aspiring sportspeople to take seriously. ‘As a teenager you have all your 20s and even your 30s to be a professional sports person,’ she says. ‘Don’t neglect those years, but also don’t be afraid to pursue your goals and just go for it.’

Quick-Fire Questions

Where’s your favourite place to walk in the North East?
Warkworth beach. I always make sure to go there with my family and with my dog when i’m back home.

Where’s your favourite place to eat/drink in the North East?
I couldn’t decide between: The Fish Shack, Amble (I love going here with family after a dog walk); Aidan’s Kitchen, Newcastle for brunch with friends, and Tiny Tiny, Newcastle (my sister and I love going here together when we’re home).

What’s an item you couldn’t live without?
My eye mask – I love my sleep!

Do you have a go-to lazy dinner?
Roasted veg, salmon and rice in the rice cooker – super quick to prep and very tasty!

Do you have a favourite podcast or book at the moment?
I’m currently reading All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr before I watch it on Netflix, but my favourite book is Educated by Tara Westover and my favourite podcasts are Working Hard, Hardly Working with Grace Beverley and The Diary of a CEO with Steven Bartlett.

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