Karina Kaufmann will be fulfilling a lifelong dream this weekend when she represents Team GB at the World Sprint Triathlon Championships in Amsterdam.
The mother-of-four, from East Finchley, will be donning the national trisuit for the first time, and told jewishnews.co.uk: “I’m so excited! I’m immensely proud and can’t wait to wear my GB trisuit and race in front of my daughter Aurora.”
A sport enthusiast, she says: “I’ve always had a love for sports and skied competitively when I was younger. But, life got busy, especially once I started my PhD and then became a new mum. After my first two girls were born, I realised I needed to get back some ‘me time’ and decided to start running again. It gave me the space I needed and helped me stay in shape so I could be a better mummy.”
Her life then hit a ‘low patch’ when she suffered two consecutive miscarriages, after which she got involved with triathlon. “A good friend encouraged me to try the Blenheim Palace Triathlon and it turned out to be just what I needed,” she said. “After that first one, my competitive side came out and I kept looking to push myself to go faster, even after my twins were born.”
Consisting of a 750m swim, 20km cycle and 5km, the 36-year-old will be taking part in the 35-39-age-group category and usually does some sort of training six days a week. “I’m lucky enough that my job as a personal trainer means I can fit my training around my clients,” she says. “So whether it be going for a long bike ride with my club, CC London on a Sunday, or popping to Highgate Women’s Pond for a quick swim session, I’m usually doing some sort of training six days a week.
“When people talk about triathlon it’s often in the same kind of hushed tone as running a marathon – something that seems unachievable for normal people and just the preserve of the very sporty. But it’s really not.
“There are plenty of accessible events which have ‘taster’ levels – only needing to swim the equivalent of eight lengths of a pool, a very short cycle and then running 2.5km. It works out to being 30-45 minutes’ worth of exercise. The most challenging thing is often the kit required – but if you pick a pool-based triathlon, all you need is a swimsuit, a bike and some running shoes. I’ve even seen people do a triathlon with a wicker basket on the front of their bike while wearing a Hawaiian shirt!
“But for me, the pleasure of triathlon is that is can be as tough as you make it. It’s as much about mental strength, grit and determination as it is physical fitness and stepping up to compete at international level will hopefully push me further!”
Having won competitions in the past, she certainly had to up her game to qualify for this weekend, competing in what she said was her toughest race, to reach Amsterdam. “There are only a handful of qualifying races in the UK, and only one even vaguely near London, which means that there is a lot of competition,” she says. “Prior to that I had won several gold or silver medals at other competitions, including the past two London Triathlons, but the qualifying race was certainly my toughest – the level of entrants was remarkable, and I’m excited that several of them are now my team-mates at the World Championship. I’m also very grateful to my sponsor Skybound Capital for helping me get to the race.”
In terms of what she’s hoping to achieve on Sunday, she says: “I would be thrilled with a personal best during the race, but the cycling course in Rotterdam has lots of tight twists and turns so staying in one piece will be a bonus.
“I think everyone should have a positive mental attitude so I will get into the water believing I can win and give it all that I have got.”
However, PB’s aside, Karina, who’s an active member of Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue and is also referred to as Brown Owl, having re-established the HGS Brownie pack three years ago, says her main goal is to inspire other women and girls: “That is the aim, starting with those closest to me; my four daughters – together with the additional 30 surrogate daughters from my brownies group – who I will also be trying to encourage!
My eldest, Isla, already tried her hand at a duathlon last year, and Aurora just learned to ride a bike. So I’m hoping that both of them – and eventually my twins, Mina and Vesper – will also find a sport that they love. Whether they want to try and compete for Great Britain, I will leave that up to them to decide.”