Arguably one of British triathlon’s greatest-ever competitors and ambassadors, few people get to what Vicky Holland has in achieving her sporting career. But, in a medal-heavy career, two particular achievements stand out. Here’s what you should know about the three-time Olympian…
Who is Vicky Holland?
After a childhood as a competitive swimmer before taking up middle-distance running, triathlon always seemed to be the natural sport for Vicky Holland, but she didn’t get into the sport until the second year of her degree at Loughborough University.
She certainly made up for lost time. Not only was Holland the first British woman to win an Olympic medal in triathlon, she was also the first to combine the accolade with a world title.
A late entrant to triathlon, Holland was also something of an even later bloomer within the sport. It took her five years of being on and around the podiums of World Triathlon Series events before she got to stand atop one, thanks to a victory in Cape Town in 2015.
That was the start of a glorious few years. Although injury dictated that 2017 was pretty much a write-off, the season was bookended by the two most memorable years of Holland’s competitive life.
First came that Olympic medal, bronze in colour and secured in dramatic fashion when Holland outsprinted her best pal Non Stanford in Rio.
The 2018 season was even more memorable as Holland emerged from a long injury lay-off with a dominant performance throughout the WTS series.
Victories in Leeds, Hamburg and Chicago boosted her to world champion, a deserved reward for a career whose path has at times been undulating.
It is testament to Holland’s resolve and fortitude that, as the curtain begins to fall on her short-course professional career, she will forever be both world champion and Olympic medallist.
How old is Vicky Holland?
Vicky Holland was born on 12 January 1986, making her 36 years old.
Vicky Holland’s career highlights
July 2010: A maiden top-five WTS finish in her first season
In her first World Triathlon Series season among the elite corps, Holland follows up a top-10 finish on her debut in Sydney with fifth place in Hamburg. Less than a week later, she also bags sixth on the streets of London.
May 2012: A strong showing in San Diego before the Olympics beckon
After a disappointing 2011 season, a second top-five WTS finish, this time in the Californian sun, helps earn Holland one of the six berths for Team GB at London 2012. Finishing 26th in the capital, Holland’s the second Brit home after fifth- placed Helen Jenkins.
August 2012: A first world championship
Holland joins up with Alistair Brownlee, Will Clarke and Non Stanford to earn Britain’s mixed relay team a gold medal at the world championships in Stockholm. Two years later, Holland’s part of the foursome that takes gold again.
July 2014: Holland teams up for Glasgow gold
The mixed relay event makes its debut at the Commonwealth Games and the English quartet of Holland, Jodie Stimpson and the Brownlee brothers storms to gold. With such a team, a win was never in question.
April 2015: A belated first WTS race win
Five years on from first competing in the WTS series, Holland registers her first WTS race victory in Cape Town, pulling away from Katie Zaferes of the USA and Switzerland’s Nicola Spirig in the closing stages of the run.
Despite another win in Edmontonplus podium appearances in Hamburg and Chicago, Holland fails to make the top three overall in the series, finishing a respectable fourth.
August 2016: Holland makes British Olympic history
In her second Olympics, Holland makes history in Rio as the first British woman to win a triathlon medal at the Games.
But her bronze – behind champion Gwen Jorgensen and silver medallist Spirig – only came after she had outsprinted her housemate Non Stanford on the Copacabana beachfront.
September 2018: The Olympic medallist becomes world champion
After an injury-hit 2017 season when she barely made the start line of any races, Holland returns to the WTS circuit in the best style and form of her career.
Though Holland doesn’t take the win at the Grand Final on the Gold Coast, her second place – allied to victory in Leaders, Edmonton and Montrealplus another second in Bermuda – confirms her world champion status.
Selected again for the Commonwealth Games, Holland jets off to the Gold Coast to bag silver in the mixed team relay alongside the Brownlee brothers and Jess Learmonth.
July 2021: A final tilt at further Olympic glory
Having been selected for her third and final Olympics at the age of 35, a crash on the bike leg dashes any hopes of matching, or even eclipsing, Holland’s Rio bronze.
The wet, greasy roads of Tokyo and its environs end Holland’s Olympic career as she comes home in 13th place.
That’s not all for the Brit, though, as come September Holland claims a well-earned third place in the Triple Mix event at Super League TriathlonLondon.
Vicky Holland quotes
On becoming world champion in 2018: “This season for me had always been about the Commonwealth Games and that was what I was training for. Since that point, things just fell into place.”
On winning Olympic bronze at the 2016 Games: “I didn’t fly out to Rio until the middle weekend, so I spent the first week in Leeds watching everything on television. I just remember watching Adam Peaty’s world record and getting so caught up in the excitement. Success breeds success.”
On her 13th place at the Tokyo Olympics: “That’s the beauty and pain of elite sport. Sometimes you don’t get what you think you deserve or what you think you are ready to deliver.”
Part of Tim Don’s Eagles team at London Super League Triathlon, Holland was surprised and delighted with her performance: “I’m shocked. Genuinely, I am,” she said. “I’ve had a weird 4-5 weeks since the Olympics with a lot of travel and quarantine, and a lack of training, I’ve had a heavy head cold and even this week I wasn’t sure I was going to race .
From a team element I loved it. We finished on top, so I’m delighted with that. As for me to get a podium, it doesn’t happen that often any more and I’m delighted with that too.”
What’s next for Vicky Holland?
While there are no more Olympic races left to run, don’t yet rule out Holland when it comes to WTS races, nor underestimate what she can contribute to Super League competition.
Whatever her race plans, Holland’s effect on the sport will continue to be felt, thanks to her appointment as the elite athlete representative on the British Triathlon board.
Top image: Delly Carr/Getty Images