Kat Matthews grew up playing hockey with England's Commonwealth Games heroes but is now bidding to translate her teamwork skills into success at triathlon's equivalent of the Ryder Cup.
Exmouth's Matthews, 31, played for the West of England's Under-17s with Giselle Ansley and Maddie Hinch before dropping the sport when she started to take triathlon seriously while working as a physiotherapist for the army at Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Just a five-minute walk from Matthews' former workplace is the University of Birmingham where Ansley and Hinch wrote their names into the record books earlier this month after helping England beat Australia to seal their first Commonwealth gold after 24 years of trying.
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Matthews is using the pair's continued success and particularly goalkeeper Hinch's shoot-out heroics, which won Olympic gold for Team GB at Rio 2016 and helped England beat New Zealand in the Commonwealth semi-final, as motivation as she prepares to represent Team Europe at the second Collins Cup in Bratislava this weekend.
Matthews said: "Absolutely, I take inspiration from that. Her book of tactics is notorious and seeing things like that it draws you into your own sport.
"Somebody who you can relate to is using these key tactical and really thought-out processes, why not bring that into my sport?
"So, I'm looking at my competitors. I'm looking at the bike course in detail. I'm trying to be a forward thinker rather than just looking at what everyone else is doing and sort of copying that."
Matthews' innovative approach is matched by the athlete-owned Professional Triathletes Organisation (PTO), which is aiming to take triathlon to the next level by professionalising the longer-than-Olympic distance arm of the sport.
With Warner Bros Discovery on board for three years as a global broadcaster and venture capitalist funding, the PTO dreams are big as it seeks to transform triathlon by bringing it in line with major sports like golf and tennis with around four major and lucrative races a season.
The Collins Cup is modelled on golf's Ryder Cup and was first introduced last year with Team Europe claiming the spoils over Team USA and Team International.
This time around the PTO is in its first full season after July's successful Canadian Open in Edmonton with a packed field, including Olympic champions Kristian Blummenfelt and Flora Duffy as well as British star Alex Yee's rival Hayden Wilde of New Zealand all taking to the startline in Slovakia.
The team event has a $1.5million prize pot spread equally between men and women, think LIV Golf on a smaller scale without the Saudi Arabian ties.
Professional Matthews, who only took up the sport aged 24, was a captain's pick in 2021 but is in on merit for Europe this year and cannot wait to help retain the title while building the profile of the progressive PTO.
She explained: "I think the overall experience of the event [last year] was out of the triathlon world as we know it, so I want to be there for the fun of the experience, but also the competitive element.
"I can't see us not winning, but there's always a lot to play for. The PTO is fundamental to my lifestyle as a professional athlete and the integrity and the professionalism of the sport.
"It's unrivalled at the moment and allows you to earn a much higher living from the sport."
Matthews is certainly one to watch having become the first woman to complete a full distance triathlon in under eight hours in June in an event akin to Eliud Kipchoge's successful sub two-hour marathon attempt.
However, she believes her second place at the 2021 Ironman World Championship is what really made her fellow competitors stand up and take notice.
"Maybe it was more of an eye-opener for some," said Matthews.
"It was my debut at the distance and I stepped up to the plate and said, ‘even though I haven't been around that long, I'm definitely one of the contenders.'"
Matthews waxes lyrical about the equal opportunities available to women in triathlon but caveats that with the fact that ever since her childhood cross country days, she has encountered a damaging stigma about what a female athlete's body should look like and is determined to break the mould.
"I had a slightly more muscular body than some of the other girls I used to run with and it was slightly unacceptable that I wasn't running in a crop top and little pants," she said.
"I experienced that inner thigh rub and as a teenage girl I thought it was unacceptable and I thought ‘I can't do this'. But that's absolutely fine, it's about trying to be tolerant of every body type rather than smaller is better.
"Just because one person looks slightly leaner than another doesn't mean their body fat percentage is lower. Striving for something that somebody else looks like is just wrong."
The Collins Cup takes place on Saturday 20 August at the X-Bionic Sphere, Bratislava. For full listings of how to watch go to https://protriathletes.org/events/how-to-watch
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