Tokyo 2020: Triathlon and taekwondo see spike in interest following Team GB's Olympic medals

ITV News' Nick Thatcher sees how youngsters have been inspired to take up the triathlon by Team GB's success

Words by ITV News Multimedia Producer Kavita Patel

Triathlon and taekwondo have seen a surge in interest following the recent medal success from Team GB at the Tokyo Olympics.

Team GB took silver in both the men's and women's triathlons, and two silvers and a bronze in taekwondo.

British Triathlon's Chief Executive, Andy Salmon, said traffic to their website increased by 300% this week.

Speaking to ITV News, he said this increase in hits was "people visiting our specific pages and people wanting to enter races.

"People are searching for clubs and wanting to try out for the triathlon - and it's great because they can create new friends and get new support."

Mr Salmon also said the regional managers for the sport's body have been experiencing increased interest.

He said: "A grandmother called one of our regional managers and asked whether there was a local club where her three grandchildren could attend."

People training on bikes and swimming in open water at a local British Triathlon club. Credit: British Triathlon

Mr Salmon also spoke of how inspiring the Team GB athletes have been this week."It's absolutely fantastic to see.

"We're very lucky that the triathlon is part of the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games.

"We're lucky that people invest in the National Lottery, which ultimately helps to support the Olympics a lot."

He added more people have also been getting involved with the triathlon due to the Covid pandemic.

"If ever there has been a time where this country needs this and let's face it they are the three activities that are so easy to access and it's not expensive and it's just been growing and growing recently," he adds.

He continued: "We have nine regional managers, they're getting lots and lots and lots of calls.

"We've got 700 clubs across the country who are ready for the uptake."

His comments come on the same week as athlete Georgia Taylor-Brown overcame a puncture to win silver for Great Britain in a wet women’s triathlon.

Georgia Taylor-Brown of Great Britain competes during the women's individual triathlon competition at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Credit: AP

Taylor-Brown went into the race as the reigning world champion and one of the favourites for the title but had to play catch-up on the 10 kilometres run after getting a flat tyre on the last lap of the bike leg.

Alex Yee also continued Britain’s run of success in the Olympic triathlon with a silver medal on his debut, finishing just 11 seconds behind Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt.

Team GB athlete Alex Yee was in a strong position throughout the triathlon. Credit: PA

Ian Leafe, who is British Taekwondo's Chief Executive, described this week as "quite the rollercoaster."

He said: "We have experienced a lot from the huge amount of coverage and the excitement that builds up around taekwondo at the Olympic Games.

"Our sport provided five athletes and three medals this time which has completely smashed our target again - so we were aware there is likely to be a significant uptake and interest in taekwondo."

Compared to previous Olympics where Taekwondo was one of the last sports to compete, having the early start has really paid off, he said.

He added: "At the end of the day we want to see young children feeling inspired and then knocking on the doors of the dojangs (training room)."

Lauren Williams secured a silver medal in the Tokyo Olympics. Credit: Martin Rickett/PA Wire/PA Images

Team GB athletes Lauren Williams and Bradley Sinden secured two silver medals and three-time world champion Bianca Walkden finished with a bronze medal.

Mr Leafe praised the timing of the Olympics, saying: "The Olympic Games coming along has been an absolute godsend because to be honest combat sports during Covid, it was just so difficult.

"It just needed an absolute shot in the arm and the Olympic Games has come around at the right time for that."

"We're just absolutely thrilled and thanks to GB Taekwondo for putting taekwondo in the spotlight once again and particularly at the Olympic Games." 

Mr Leafe added that the rollercoaster journey will happen all over again during the Paralympics.

Team GB athlete Bianca Walkden is a three-time world champion in Taekwondo. Credit: AP

"My job is to stimulate participation and get as many down into the taekwondo dojangs and show people it's for all ages and disability.

"Para-Taekwondo is in the Paralympics for the first time this year and I cannot wait to see that and what it brings in for us too."

When asked whether the recent performances from the likes of Jade Jones, Bianca Walkden and Lauren Williams will encourage others to join the sport, he said: "Yes, definitely, I really hope so.

"Some people tend to think combat sports are severely male dominated, however we're looking like around 40% participation with women and that has been consistent over the last 10 years and that is only going to improve."

He praised the sport for allowing others to help others overcome challenges and setbacks.

He added: "In taekwondo there are so many individual elements of what we do and the skills and the ability to participate but really I know people who start as young as five and go all the way up until they're 80.

"I was teaching taekwondo for years and I had someone join my classes who started with very severe Down's Syndrome and, well, he is now 17 and is a 2nd Dan (degree) black belt."