Most young athletes who want to improve their form tend to concentrate on one particular sport but up-and-coming Westport star Con Doherty prefers to work on the three disciplines of running, cycling, and swimming in his bid to become a professional triathlete. Having effortlessly come first in the swimming section of the inaugural Westport triathlon recently, and featuring as a winner in the first round of the Irish National League in cycling in March, he is already well on his way to achieving his dream.
“I don’t want to be anything else except a professional triathlete. That’s it,” says the talented youngster.
For a week there at Easter this is exactly how Doherty lived, after being selected to go to Spain as part of the Junior Irish Triathlon squad. Still aged just 14, he is now looking forward to another week of similar training coming up in Rome where he will be the only representative from Connacht in the group.
“There were 10 of us at the Easter training week and they put us through our paces. We led the normal life of a triathlete for the week doing a full five hours of training every day covering the three disciplines, seven days a week. Only two of us got through doing every session. You get used to it. I would do it straight for two months if I could.”
Specialised training camps aside, Con Doherty also manages to stick to a rigid regime in his everyday life. A typical week’s training at home in Westport goes as follows: Monday, two hours swimming; Tuesday, one and a half hour running; Wednesday, 7am, 10k outdoor run; later, swimming training for two hours; Thursday, swimming training one and a half hours, evening run, one and a half hours; Fridays, 6.30am swimming one and a half hours; Saturday morning, 80k cycle; Sunday, competition day, alternatively, a run out on the dunes in Bertra with Westport Athletic Club.
Competitive triathlon events for under-16 year olds are ‘short’, ie, proportionally less in distance than standard triathlons, in order not to interfere with the proper growth of young athletes or cause them to burn out prematurely. Con Doherty has also been lucky enough never to have suffered an injury so far that has forced him to give up training “and I would just go mad if I did”, he admits.
While it might strike some as worrying that a young person should train so competitively, Con Doherty, son of John and Eithne from Belclare, only actually got involved in athletics two years ago.
“I was 12 when I joined Westport Athletics Club in 2008 and I remember being fairly fat at the time and a bit of a slob! I did a bit of swimming but didn’t take it seriously.”
Con Doherty’s swimming talent is unquestionable and the sheer beauty he adds to the water as he expertly cuts through it with powerful freestyle, butterfly, and breast strokes is like art in motion. He recently won the 200 metre in the Connacht Championships butterfly and came third in the 1,500m freestyle.
Putting his name forward in primary school for the cross country running trials and going on to run as part of the team in two qualifying heats in the Connacht Championships proved a major turning point in his young life as Con then started making decisions about how he wanted to grow up.
“I decided I would just get a bit fitter so after first year in secondary school I started improving, and since June of last year I got really good and started winning in the Connacht Championships. I started getting good at running and that was when I first thought, maybe I could be good at swimming too - and then I thought I might try for triathlon and that was when I got a bike.”
The talented youth said, “I don’t feel I am missing out on anything by training so much. What I love is endurance, I just love beating people. My goal? I want to be the best. That’s it.”