Chinese International School triple-threat Mark Russell dominates Asian triathlon scene


Being a top athlete in any sport is gruelling; mastering three different disciplines, and winning, requires time, dedication and a real love of what you do

Andrew McNicol |

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Triathlons are not for the faint-hearted: they require the completion of three endurance disciplines – swimming, cycling and running. Fortunately, Mark Russell’s heart is stacked to the brim with energy and determination.

The Chinese International School (CIS) student came first in his age category in the selection trials for the 2017 Asian School Cross Country Championship earlier this month, adding yet another triumph under his belt. “Ours was the last race of the day, so I was relieved when it was over,” he said.

Winning is a familiar feeling for the 14-year-old as he continues to dominate in his craft. His top accolade so far is winning the Asia Cup Triathlon in his age category. Mark has also come first in several inter-school cross country races, but he isn’t the type to brag. “My dad has a list of my personal achievements, but I’m not too focused on that. I’m always looking forward to taking part in my next race,” he explained.

Mark began running competitively at the age of 10 after CIS sports director Kellie Alexander – and now Mark’s coach – introduced him to the sport. He swiftly took up training sessions in Happy Valley with 26 Coaching. “Ever since then, I’ve been addicted to running. After a while,
I progressed to doing triathlons. I’m now working on improving my swimming times,” said Mark.

Being an all-round triathlete requires plenty of time and dedication, but coach Alexander is confident in her student. “It’s such a pleasure to watch Mark develop. He’s a very special, talented and committed young athlete. He has all the family and coaching support in place for a very bright racing future,” she said.

Mark takes his training seriously. Unlike many of us who enjoy a morning lie-in, Mark stays disciplined with early morning runs: “It’s nice and quiet,” he says. “I love it when I come back from a run and everyone’s still tucked up in bed. I also love pushing my body to the extreme.” His parents are very supportive – but his mother naturally worries when Mark pushes too far.

Mark is proving he can take on the best of the best in his chosen sport.
Photo: David Russell

When he’s not tearing up triathlons, Mark likes to play computer games and read. But even when it comes to books, he can’t seem to get away from his sport. “I just finished a book about ultra marathon runner Dean Karnazes. I really recommend it to anyone who is interested in running,” he said.

It’s clear that Mark has a promising future if he continues to demonstrate this professional attitude towards training and competing. In the future, he hopes to compete in the International Triathlon Union and the Olympics, the pinnacle for triathletes. He’s also interested in taking part in the annual – and treacherous – Ironman World Championship held in Hawaii.

Mark looks to follow in the footsteps of his role models, British triathletes and brothers Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee. “I went to see them win gold and silver at the Rio Olympics. I was standing right behind them at the start line and took a photo,” said Mark.

Perhaps the next time he encounters the Olympic medallists, he’ll be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with them, waiting for the starting horn …

Bench notes

Whichever discipline, Mark stays ahead of the game.
Photo: David Russell

What song best describes you when you’re running?
Mr Brightside by The Killers.

Do you have a personal motto?
“You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great” – Zig Zaglar.

What’s your favourite thing to eat before a big event?
Two Weetabix with milk and fresh raspberries. Fill the bowl with milk to the point where the Weetabix are nearly submerged – this is crucial – then proceed to drop in the raspberries one by one, savouring the manner in which they enter the bowl.

I don’t really eat junk food or sweets. The least healthy thing that I might eat is chocolate cake or beef pie at the Rugby Sevens.

Which fictional character would you choose as your teammate?
Quicksilver from X-Men. He can pretty much freeze time.

10 years in the future, you are a famous athlete. What company do you sign-on as a spokesperson for, and what product do you promote?
Definitely Weetabix.

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