Georgia Taylor-Brown: Olympic medals hid problems 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 difficult enough at the best of times; carrying someone else is quite an achievement. For Georgia Taylor-Brown, her repeat mission in Paris this summer will be far from easy, but at least domestically it will be smooth sailing compared to Tokyo.

Separating the personal from the professional is part of the toolbox of the top athlete, but four years ago she had to split up in a chaotic and challenging environment. With her long-term partner, former Team Sky cyclist Josh Edmondson, who suffered from severe depression, she was effectively a caregiver emotionally. Now that she is looking 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 another world. There are many addiction problems. Drug use, alcoholism… there’s a lot of that,” she says. Edmondson admitted to injecting legal vitamin supplements and using tramadol.

“It actually started right away when we got together. Things would be good for a while, but then they would be bad again. It was very up and down. Like any form of addiction, it is not a straight line. It’s not like you’re sober and that’s it. When I wasn’t home, I was always on my phone making sure everything was okay.

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

“I just dealt with it myself. I don’t really know why. I think I was afraid to talk about it because I didn’t really know what was going on. I thought we could get through it because that’s what couples do. But it got to a point where I couldn’t do it myself anymore and I had to seek help. For him and also for me.”

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

(L-R) Jessica Learmonth, Jonathon Brownlee, Georgia Taylor-Brown and Alex Yee - Georgia Taylor-Brown: Olympic medals hidden problems in my personal life(L-R) Jessica Learmonth, Jonathon Brownlee, Georgia Taylor-Brown and Alex Yee - Georgia Taylor-Brown: Olympic medals hidden problems 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 very difficult. I celebrated this great success, but Josh was going through a very difficult time. I wanted him to be proud and celebrate with me, but that didn’t work,” she says.

“Then 2022 got really bad. On the morning of most races I would just sit in my room and cry. I left my room, put on a smile and went to do my work – and I still raced well – but it took a lot of effort to hide it all.

It was an emotional whirlpool. When it came to facing Flora Duffy at the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi to decide who would become world champion that year, she came away empty-handed.

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

‘I didn’t want to do a triathlon’

Taylor-Brow couldn’t take it anymore and eventually ended the relationship 15 months ago. After so much it should have been a release. Instead, she felt lethargic and numb even as the new season arrived.

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

“Maybe it was just an accumulation of emotions over the years that caused everything to collapse. I was on the edge, but I kept going and my body just said ‘No’.”

That happened 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’re doing a complete reset,’” she says. “It made me realize how much the emotional and psychological things take away from you. You think it’s just in your head, but physically it really takes its toll.

“Your body is very smart. If you are not going to stop, the device will tell you to stop.”

‘I can sleep a lot easier at night’

Time is the only great healer and Taylor-Brown is healthy again. In all perspectives. She tells her story from a kitchen in Girona where she trained. The house belongs to her new partner, French triathlete Vincent Luis. She is visibly happy. And this time it’s not a front.

“It’s so nice to have a real relationship that is very loving and caring, where I am very well taken care of and feel safe. “I can sleep much easier at night,” she said.

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

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

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

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

“That would be the dream. I am very lucky that I managed to get two medals in Tokyo. I look at photos of the finish line now and it gives me goosebumps to think of the immediate emotions I got during the individual and team events. I want to bottle that feeling and have it all the time. That’s part of my drive – to get that feeling again.

“From such a young age, for me it was always about the Olympics. It is the pinnacle of any sport and I am driven towards it. It would be incredible to have my family and friends there this time.”

Her only concern this time will be the race itself, her old life is a thing of the past.

“I haven’t heard from Josh. I don’t know what he’s doing, but I hope he’s on the right track and he’s 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 believed I could help move on with his life and get better. I thought I could cure him.

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

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