Georgia Taylor-Brown: Olympic medals hid troubles in my personal life

Georgia Taylor-Brown - Olympic medals hid troubles in my personal life

Georgia Taylor-Brown admitted she used triathlon to escape life at home – Getty Images/Loic Venance

Winning an Olympic triathlon medal is hard enough at the best of times; doing so carrying someone else is quite a feat. For Georgia Taylor-Brown, her repeat mission in Paris this summer will be far from straightforward but, domestically at least, it will be plain sailing compared to Tokyo.

Separating the personal from the professional is part of the top athlete’s toolkit, but four years ago she had to compartmentalise against a chaotic and challenging backdrop. With her long-term partner, the former Team Sky cyclist Josh Edmondson, suffering from severe depression, she was effectively a carer in emotional terms. It is only now, as she looks forward to this year’s Games in a new relationship, she feels able to talk about it.

“Josh was a cyclist and cycling is just a different world. It has a lot of addiction problems. Drug use, alcoholism… there’s a lot of that,” she says. Edmondson admitted to injecting legal vitamin supplements and taking tramadol.

“It started straight away pretty much when we got together. It would be good for a while, then it would be bad again. It was very up and down. Like any sort of addiction, it’s not a straight line. It’s not like you’re sober and that’s it done. I would always be on my phone when I was away from home making sure he was OK.

“It was rough trying to deal with everything going on in my personal life and trying to keep it out of my professional life. But you just get used to the situation you are in, don’t you? I didn’t know any different. I had been in that relationship since I was 20, 21 and it was all I knew. It was my first proper relationship.

“I just dealt with it myself. I don’t really know why. I guess I was scared to speak about it because I didn’t really know what was happening. I thought we could work through because that’s what couples do. But it got to a point where I couldn’t do it myself any more and I had to get help. For him and also for me.”

The outside world saw only the success story of the shiny Olympic gold for the mixed relay and the individual silver medal, but back home in Leeds the situation was deteriorating.

(L-R) Jessica Learmonth, Jonathon Brownlee, Georgia Taylor-Brown and Alex Yee - Georgia Taylor-Brown: Olympic medals hid troubles in my personal life

(left to right) Jessica Learmonth, Jonathon Brownlee, Georgia Taylor-Brown and Alex Yee – Getty Images/Leon Neal

“The back end of 2021, after the Olympics, was really hard. I was celebrating this amazing success but Josh was going through a really hard time. I wanted him to be proud and celebrate with me but he wasn’t able to,” she says.

“Then 2022 got really bad. On the morning of most races, I would just be in my room crying. I would leave my room, put on a smile and go do my job – and I was still racing well – but it took a lot out of me trying to hide all that.”

It was an emotional vortex. When it came to the climactic head-to-head with Flora Duffy at the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi to decide who would be world champion that year, she was running on empty.

“I wanted to be world champion so badly but I just didn’t want to be there. My head just wasn’t in it. I had nothing left,” she says. She was beaten into second place.

‘I didn’t want to do triathlon’

Unable to take any more, Taylor-Brown finally ended the relationship 15 months ago. After so much, it should have been a release. Instead, she felt listless, numb, even as the new season dawned.

“That part of my life had gone and I thought I had recovered from it but I hadn’t. I had no motivation. I didn’t want to do triathlon. I didn’t want to do very much at all,” she says.

“Maybe it was just a build-up over the years of the emotion and everything coming crashing down. I had been on the edge but I had kept going and going and my body was just saying, ‘No’.”

It did so emphatically last July when she tore her calf – a four-month injury that ended her season. “I just think that calf injury was my body saying, ‘We’re shutting you down and you are taking a full reset’,” she says. “It made me realise how much the emotional and psychological stuff takes it out of you. You think it is just in your head but, physically, it really takes a toll.

“Your body is very clever. If you’re not going to stop, it will tell you to stop.”

‘I can sleep at night a lot more easily’

Time is the one great healer and Taylor-Brown is healthy again. In every respect. She tells her story from a kitchen in Girona where she has been training. The house belongs to her new partner, the French triathlete Vincent Luis. She is visibly happy. And this time it is not a front.

“To be in a real relationship that is very loving and caring, where I am very well looked after and I feel safe is so nice. I can sleep at night a lot more easily,” she said.

“It’s nice to be with someone who understands what I do, understands my dreams, who respects them and is proud of me. This year is an Olympic year so we will be apart a lot. As hard as that is, we both have our dreams and we drive each other forward.”

Georgia Taylor-Brown (R) - Georgia Taylor-Brown: Olympic medals hid troubles in my personal life

Georgia Taylor-Brown (right) is looking ahead to Paris – Getty Images/Michael Steele

Paris 2024 is a burning shared goal. Taylor-Brown’s injury last season means she still has to qualify in May for the Games but, all things being equal, she will be there and pushing for the podium.

“That would be the dream. I feel very lucky that I managed to get two medals in Tokyo. I look at pictures now from the finish line and it gives me goosebumps thinking about those instant emotions I got in the individual and the team events. I want to bottle that feeling and be able to have it all the time. That is part of my drive – to get that feeling again.

“From such a young age, for me, it has always been about the Olympics. It’s the pinnacle of every sport and I’m driven towards it. To have my family and friends there, too, this time would be incredible.”

Her only worry this time will be the race itself, her old life consigned to the past.

“I haven’t heard anything from Josh. I don’t know what he is doing but I hope he is on an upward path and that he is healthier and happier,” she says.

“I was with him for eight years. He was someone I really loved and cared for and who I really thought I could help move forward with his life and get better. I thought I could heal him.

“It’s not like you can just switch all that off and forget that you ever cared about them. I still do think about him, I care about him and I really hope he is doing well. That’s all I ever wanted for him.”

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