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FHS alumnus Bell among world’s top two in run, high in bike at triathlon

Despite rude encounters, a bad swim, lost luggage and a missing bike that almost made his trip futile, Eric Bell still got a lot out of his experience representing the United States at the Amateur World Championships in Leusane, Switzerland Sept. 1-3.

The former Farragut High School track 1,600 meter state champion and University of Tennessee standout runner finished 20th in the world among amateurs ages 25 to 30, 60th overall among all amateurs — about 800, Bell said.

Moreover, Bell overcame that “really bad swim” to finish tops in the world in his age group and second overall in the 10K run (:34.09) and seventh overall, second in his age group, in the 25-mile bike course (1:01.39).

“It was a great experience,” Bell said. “I probably had the best run-bike combination of anybody there, but that’s why it’s three sports and not two.

“I had a really bad [one mile] swim, mentally I’ve been having some difficulties in the water. … It was tough. The wind kicked up and the water was about sixty-five degrees, it was really cold. I was seven minutes off my [swim] time from about a month ago in Chattanooga. I’m seeing a sports psychologist and trying to get those kinks worked out.”

But Bell conquered the bike and running courses. “The bike [race] was a really technical bike course, there’s a lot of hills in it and a lot of turns. It was challenging,” he said.

“The run course was pretty flat. …”

Bell said he almost didn’t get to compete because his bicycle “didn’t even get there ’till midnight the night before the race. “The airline lost my luggage. I didn’t think I was going to get to race.”

Hospitality-wise in Switzer-land, “It felt like the Americans were not well-received,” Bell said. “As a whole there seemed like there was a lot of animosity. It’s big time.”

Bell ,27, said he experienced it first-hand. “We were out at a function, and a lot of the teams trade stuff, but nobody wanted any of the Americans’ stuff,” he said, adding that it made him think, “Do they not like us because of our government, or do they not like us because we are good? I can’t tell if it’s government-related because we’re in a war and stuff, or because they’re tired of the Americans dominating [triathlons]?”

Beyond Switzerland, “We had an incident at the Paris airport when me and my partner were flying in,” Bell said. “Just the way we were treated, the way we were scrutinized for the stuff we were carrying on. They were giving us a really hard time. In fact, one of the policemen we were talking to, I asked him a question and he goes, ‘you just need to shut up, you just need to shut up.’ … It was difficult at times.”

However, “I don’t want to put judgment on everybody, ’cause that wasn’t the experience as a whole,” Bell added. “It was a great experience. The American team, we hung out together a lot, and so it was really cool that way.

“To be able to wear U-S-A, I hope it’s not a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I hope there’s many more opportunities to do that.”

Bell said that while running, “It was interesting to see the fans cheering in all different types of languages.

“And [Leusane] was a beautiful part of the world. It was amazing, absolutely breath-taking.”

As for USA team results, “I never saw the team results, but the Americans cleaned house,” Bell said. “An American won the overall race, an American won my age group, an American won the thirty-five to thirty-nine age group. I bet they won half the age groups out there.”

Overall, “I think it was a great experience, it was a huge learning experience,” Bell said. “It’s a confidence-builder for me with my bike and run.

“And with the swim, I’ll just have to get in the pool and get after it in the water.”


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