From showing off her jazz hands on Strictly one year to retaining her European title the next - Lauren Steadman knows how to impress on any stage, writes Ella Jerman.
Taking seven months off training in the middle of a Paralympic cycle is a bold decision for any athlete, but for Steadman, the risk seems to have paid off.
Despite losing nearly 5kg in weight in the run-up to making the 2018 semi-finals of Strictly Come Dancing, the three-time Paralympian claimed gold in just her second race of the year at the Tokyo Paratriathlon World Cup in August, before following up her success with silver at the World Grand Final in Lausanne and gold at the European Championships in Valencia.
Stunned at her own success, Steadman is relieved to be reaping the rewards of her Strictly gamble and is confident they will propel her to success at the Tokyo Games next year.
“This year wasn’t about winning Worlds or Europeans, it was about delivering the best I could to get to Tokyo,” she said.
“The Test event was my A race this year. I was really chuffed to bring home gold. It was a special moment as I didn’t think that it would ever happen.
“I wanted to see how the heat and humidity in Tokyo would affect me and it went really well. It gave me fire in my belly ahead of the 2020 Games.
“I went a bit too hard on my swim in the Worlds and I tired a bit too much towards the end of the race, but I was really chuffed to finish the season by taking the European title.
“Coming off the back of not training for seven months after Strictly I honestly had no expectations of myself, but I’m pleased to be right back up there.
“I actually had the best season I’ve ever had in running and I don’t know if that’s because my power transferred across from Strictly. In that sense, it definitely paid off in my sporting career.”
Winning World Cup gold is one feat, but Steadman even knows how to do it in bizarre circumstances, with the event in Tokyo having been changed to a duathlon – a format she had never raced before - high levels of E.coli were found in the water.
It wasn’t the first time Steadman has been affected by water quality issues either. The 26-year-old just missed out on gold in triathlon’s Paralympic debut in Rio because she missed the recce after fears of water pollution, something which caused her to make a wrong turn in her swim.
As a result, she decided to take action and has been working with Volvo on an awareness-raising mission for water pollution, producing a film about the challenges she has faced which premiered last weekend at the Kendal Mountain Festival in Cumbria.
“Swimming plays a major part in triathlon and Volvo has started a fantastic initiative to clean the world’s water,” she added.
“Water pollution has had a huge impact on my career and the film is based around the challenges it can cause for elite athletes and what I think we could do in the future to help.”
Lauren Steadman is an official ambassador of Volvo Car UK and its partnership with British Triathlon