Freeman's year falls into place
17 March 2000 - It has taken an unusual set of circumstances to bring the British junior Henrietta Freeman to Vilamoura. The 16 year-old from Kent was not even thinking about these championships at the start of the winter. Instead, she was planning to step up her training as a triathlete in anticipation of the European Junior Championships of that sport in Holland in June.
To that end, she set off on a three-week British squad training visit to South Africa at the end of January. During the first week, Freeman took part in a "group bike ride" - along the streets of Cape Town - when disaster struck.
"We were travelling at about 25 miles per hour," she explained, "when the bike about half a metre in front of me got caught on the edge of a disused rail track which appeared in the road from nowhere. The next thing I knew I was flying over my handlebars and went thud in the middle of the road."
Freeman required 25 stitches for a gashed chin but miraculously avoided any further serious injury ... her riding helmet had been cracked in two, "which meant I must have hit the ground with great force." Freeman was immediately flown back to the UK, her head bandaged from top to bottom. "It looked a lot worse than it was," she said, cheerfully.
Indeed triathlons loss was athletics gain. Because Freeman was now free to contest the UK Inter-Counties Cross Country Championships, the trial race for these World Championships. She placed second and gained an automatic selection for Vilamoura, her international début. Soreness from the crash hampered her swimming and cycling training, but her running went from strength to strength. On February 26 she won the prestigious English under-17 cross country title.
Interestingly, Freeman - whose father Andrew was an international swimmer wont be the only noted triathlete on the starting line for the junior womens race on Saturday. Nicola Spirig, the reigning European Junior Triathlon Champion, will be running for Switzerland. In fact, she will be among the favourites, having won a silver at the European Cross Country Championships in Velenje last December.
"Ive never met her," said Freeman, "but obviously shes someone that everyone in the triathlon world looks up to."
Freeman - who was born in the same town (Pembury) as Kelly Holmes - will keep the three-discipline sport as her priority for the summer. This will mean missing the major events of the track season. However, there will be time to get ready for the European Cross Country Championships in Malmö nine months from now.
"Its all worked out beautifully well," she reflected, "and we live in hope that the summer will fall into place as well."