Britain have started solidly in the first few days of the European Games in Baku. Gordon Benson opened their account with a wonderful gold medal in the men's triathlon on Sunday. That has been added to by their talented canoeists, with a silver medal going to Lani Belcher and a bronze to the Olympic champion Ed McKeever.
The inaugural European Games will feature 160 British athletes in all, with representation in some 13 sports out of the 20 that will feature in the Azerbaijan venues that are hosting the event.
Benson gets gold in triathlon
With the Olympic medallists, the Brownlee brothers not competing in Baku, there was a big opportunity for someone else to enhance their credentials for the future in the triathlon. 21-year-old Benson did just that to not only take a marvellous gold medal, but also ensure that Britain have a place at the event in Rio next year. The Brownlees are expected to secure further places for the team through their performances at the qualification event in Brazil in August. There will be hot competition for the places in the GB squad for the Rio Olympics.
Benson completed the three-discipline event of 1.5km swim, 40km cycle and 10km run, with eleven seconds to spare over Joao Silva of Portugal in the silver medal position. After one hour 48 minutes 31 seconds of action, he was ultimately indebted to the efforts of his teammates to bring him back into the medal hunt. Tom Bishop and Philip Graves ensured that he was in contention after the #Cycling phase.
Benson broke clear during the 10km run, only to be hauled back in by an Estonian athlete. It proved to be only a temporary 'hiccup' though as the Leeds-based man pulled well clear again before the finish. That enabled him to indulge in the standard triathlete celebration of grabbing the Union Jack flag from the crowd and proudly draping it around his shoulders as he crossed the line.
Bronze for Olympic champion
McKeever was one of Team GB's stars on the water at London 2012, where he powered his canoe to the gold medal. Now 31-years-old, the rest of the world may be catching him up but he was still able to come away from the men's K1 200m canoe sprint with a creditable bronze medal for his endeavours.
Belcher goes even better
Twenty-six-year-old Belcher went one better, claiming the silver medal in the women's marathon K1 5,000m. Gold went to the Belarusian long-time leader, Maryna Litvinchuk. The Brit is used to success at the non-Olympic event, having medalled at both world and European level during her canoeing career. She will seek success in other events in Rio 2016. #AthleticsAfter having to contend with the hot conditions and paddles crashing into other competitors on the first lap, Belcher was essentially "really pleased to then fight back" for a medal. It was also just reward for her perseverance in the sport after considering her future involvement a few years back, brought on by not being selected for the London Olympics.