Heanor's Dave Ellis added yet another gold medal to his collection last Sunday as he cruised to victory in the men's PTVI paratriathlon race at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Ellis, along with his guide Luke Pollard, was roared on by an electric home crowd and stormed to victory in what is likely to be his only ever Commonwealth Games appearance. The Heanor man is now only missing a Paralympics gold medal in a superb career which has seen him win multiple World and European titles.
Derbyshire Media Company managed to speak to Dave as he reflected on winning his first ever Commonwealth gold medal and what it meant to him:
"Because paratriathlon has a different category in every Commonwealth Games, it meant that this week might have been the only opportunity I had to win gold; for it to have been on home soil as well was extra special. I had all my family and some friends there watching. The home crowd were awesome - it made the victory all the more special."
The Heanor sports star was asked whether he felt any pressure before the start of the race with the knowledge that this may well have been his only chance to win this particular title:
"You always feel pressure in major championships anyway. With everything that went on last year, it did add a bit more pressure on me. It can make you think that maybe you won't be able to do well at a major championships. Will you always get bad luck at these major events? So I just really wanted to make sure I had a good race and was able to race how I'd planned to so I could perform to the best of my ability."
Last year, Dave was one of the big favourites to claim gold in the PTVI paratriathlon race at the Tokyo Paralympics but disaster struck when part of his wheel snapped off his bike which forced him to retire from the race during the cycling phase. Was Dave worried at any point that a similar issue could derail his Commonwealth chances?
"I was happy to be off the bike with no issues! Things like that can always happen. Someone else from Team England suffered a puncture with their tyre - that doesn't completely end your race but it does put you out of medal contention. Things like that can go wrong in this sport. Especially in the paratriathlon. Tandem bikes are not standard bikes, so things like that can happen. So there was a little bit of anxiety while on the bike. I knew that if I just could get through this and be in a good position, then we've got a really good chance of success."
Despite a comfortable victory in the end, it took a while during the race for the 36 year-old to realise that the gold medal was well within his grasp:
"It was a bit of a weird course in the sense that you didn't really cross paths with any competitors on any lap. So we knew we were leading but we didn't know by how much when we started the run phase. Thankfully, my coach managed to catch us at one point and said the gap to second place was over two minutes, so we knew then that we'd probably be alright as at that point there was only one and a half laps to go. We could afford to relax a little bit but obviously we still wanted to keep running well and reach the finish line as strongly as we could."
Ellis was hugely complimentary of the home crowd who were in fine voice throughout the entire race, particularly during the running phase of the event. Dave agreed that a home crowd like the one he experienced in Birmingham does add an extra five per cent to an athlete's performance:
"Yeah, I think it does. As soon as we got out on the bike, the noise was unreal. You almost have to hold the adrenaline in a little bit because you just feel like you're buzzing straight away and want to push really hard; but you've got to stick with your race plan because you've got four whole laps on the bike to do, so you've got to regulate that effort a little bit. The home crowd definitely made the race feel very special and I was smiling a lot during the run phase because there was just cheering from the crowd non-stop. It was just awesome."
There's been no time for a proper celebration though. Not just yet anyway. Remarkably, Dave will be competing in a separate paratriathlon event to the Commonwealth Games this coming Saturday before returning to attend the Closing Ceremony in Birmingham the following Monday evening:
"We've got the first stand-alone World Series race for the paratriathlon in Swansea on Saturday. It'll be a big race - it's a wider range of athletes than what I've just faced in the Commonwealth Games. It's another tough challenge for me. It'll be nice to do well there as well and it'll be great to have another big paratriathlon event in the UK. Then we've got the Commonwealth Games Closing Ceremony to go back to on Monday night. It's quite a bit of travelling to go from Birmingham to Swansea and then back to Birmingham again. It'll be worth it though because I think it will be a really special occasion. I didn't get the chance to be at the Paralympics Closing Ceremony last year because we had to fly out of Japan as soon as we had finished competing due to Covid. So that's why I want to make the most of this one and really enjoy it."
With a Commonwealth gold medal now secured to sit proudly with his multiple World and European titles, it's crystal clear that there's just one gold medal missing from an otherwise perfect career: a Paralympics gold medal. For the Derbyshire paratriathlon star, all of his training from now on is geared towards winning at the Paris 2024 Paralympics to round off an outstanding career:
"Absolutely. It's only two years away. Next year will be a tough year because I will need to qualify for Paris 2024. It would be really special if I could add that one to my list of titles and I'll be doing everything I can over the next two years to try and make that happen."