Helen Jenkins (MBE)
Two-time triathlon world champion (2008 & 2011), Helen is one of Britain’s most celebrated triathletes having represented Team GB at the Olympic Games (2008, 2012 & 2016) and Wales at the Commonwealth Games (2006).
Helen won her first senior world championships in Vancouver in 2008 and went on to place 21st in Beijing on Olympic debut. After reclaiming the world title in 2011, in a summer which included a commanding victory in the London Olympic test event, Helen then overcame injury to place fifth at the 2012 Olympic Games. Another memorable triumph on Gold Coast in 2016 confirmed Helen’s qualification for a third Olympic appearance in Rio, where she finished 19th.
Helen was also British junior champion in 2003 and senior champion in 2006 and boasts several prestigious non-International Triathlon Union event wins including the 2009 London Triathlon.
Following the birth of her second child, and recovery from back surgery, which stopped her competing for three years, Helen is determined to return to professional racing and compete at the highest level.
Helen was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2019 New Year Honours for services to triathlon.
- Hometown: Bridgend
- Date of birth: 8 March 1984
- Height: 169cm
- Racing triathlon since 1999
- Coach: Marc Jenkins
- Described as: Resilient, Determined, Relaxed
Early sporting life
Helen’s introduction to triathlon came aged 15 years when she found herself in the same swim team as the daughter of the Welsh triathlon coach, and was invited to a selection session. Once introduced to the sport, Helen entered – and won – her first event, The Liam Ball race in Ireland. Helen quickly progressed and travelled to Queenstown in New Zealand in 2003 for the world junior championship, where she placed fifth, one position ahead of a young Daniela Ryf, who would go on to become a multiple Ironman world champion.
Junior to elite
After an intense period of training in 2005, Helen made the leap to the senior ranks with her first elite race in Tasmania against a competitive field featuring multiple world champions.
From there Helen’s elite career blossomed quickly and she competed at European and world level, representing Wales in the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne and Great Britain in three Olympics, in Beijing (2008), London (2012) and Rio (2016). Helen became world champion, aged 24, in Vancouver in 2008, and reclaimed the title after topping the World Triathlon Series in 2011.
Some of her most memorable performances include the victory in Vancouver, a 2011 triumph in the London Olympic test event in Hyde Park, a dominating win by over a minute in the World Triathlon Series in San Diego in May 2012, and a solo breakaway success on Gold Coast in 2016, where Helen sealed her qualification to the Rio Olympics and became one of the few women to beat all-conquering Gwen Jorgensen during the American’s dominating reign. Helen’s fifth-place at London 2012 was also a triumph against the odds, as she battled injury to make the start-line to become the then highest-finishing British triathlete in Olympic history.
- World champion: 2008 & 2011
- National champion: 2015 & 2006 (Elite), 2003 (Junior)
- Olympics: 2016 (19th), 2012 (5th), 2008 (21st)
- World Triathlon Series races;
- Cozumel 2016 (Grand Final) – 4th
- Stockholm 2016 – 3rd
- Gold Coast 2016 – 1st
- Abu Dhabi 2016 – 3rd
- Chicago 2014 – 2nd
- Cape Town 2014 – 2nd
- Auckland 2014 – 3rd
- San Diego 2012 – 1st
- Sydney 2012 – 2nd
- Beijing 2011 (Grand Final) – 2nd (& world champion)
- London 2011 – 1st
- Kitzbuehel 2011 – 2nd
- Madrid 2011 – 2nd
- London 2010 – 3rd
- Madrid 2010 – 3rd
- Gold Coast 2009 – 3rd
- London – 2009 – 3rd
The person behind the athlete
Helen’s father was in the RAF causing the family to move around for her first few years of life. Helen was born in Elgin, Scotland, moving to Germany before settling in St. Athan, South Wales, where she started school at St. Illtyds primary and then moved on to Llantwit Major comprehensive.
Away from triathlon, Helen loves to surf, go to the beach, and generally enjoy the outdoors. At home, Helen is a dedicated mum to Mali and Max and enjoys cooking and baking.
Helen’s primary goal is to return to elite competition and travel together as a family to races. Beyond her racing career, she dreams of staying involved in triathlon in either a coaching or development role, saying: “Triathlon has given me so much and I want to give back to the sport, and also encourage others to see the benefits of sport and how it can positively impact your life.”
Ten things you didn’t know about Helen…
- Helen had the same key-ring on her race bag from 2008-2016. It was a hippo!
- Helen paints her nails before every race.
- Helen likes to write a new plan of what she is doing before every race: time to get up, go to race, warm-up etc.
- Helen didn’t start cycling and running training until she was 15 years old
- Helen loves training!
- Helen doesn’t like coffee. A very rare trait for a triathlete.
- Helen loves The Great British Bake Off and is a closet ‘Trekkie’ who watches every episode of Star Trek she can find.
- Helen loves food and serves salad with nearly every meal she cooks.
- Helen had a lower back fusion in 2018 and has six screws and plates in her spine.
- Helen loves dogs.