Blazer family member to represent USA at World Games – News
For one UAB employee, having a nephew attend the World Games means that Birmingham and UAB’s support for the games is on hold.
When Kirsten Yelvington, Operations Administrator for the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, moved to Birmingham in October or 2021, she noticed the World Games branding and signage displayed throughout the city. .
While researching the range of sports at the 2022 Games, she noticed that duathlon was one of the sports represented and her interest was piqued: Yelvington’s nephew, Bert Harrison, a professional duathlete, was preparing for a competition in Spain to qualify for one of only two men’s duathlon spots on Team USA for the World Games.
“Bert has competed all over the world, so we asked if he was going to compete here at the World Games,” Yelvington recalled. “At the time we weren’t sure he was going to qualify, so I kept the World Games in the back of my mind and thought it would be amazing for him to have the opportunity. to run here.”
A love for running and cycling turned into an international career
Residing in Ellijay, Georgia, Harrison was interested in mountain biking and cross-country as a child. After racing cross-country at Berry College, Harrison nursed a few injuries through cross-training in cycling and found a love of cycling again.
Merging his two sporting passions, Harrison began participating in duathlons as a hobby. Duathlon, a sport from the triathlon family, is a sporting event that consists of a 10 km running stage, a 40 km cycling stage and a second final 5 km running stage. Duathlons are held over sprint, standard, medium and long distances.
After winning his first national duathlon championship in 2012, Harrison was hooked.
“I started training quite frequently and became instantly competitive in the duathlon. I started competing in national and international races and in 2018 I turned professional,” Harrison said.
After winning his age group in two races at the 2017 Duathlon World Championship in British Columbia, Canada, he then competed in Switzerland at the World Championship the following year and officially became a professional duathlete.
An unlikely duathlon between Birmingham and UAB
At the start of 2021, Harrison was struggling with an injury but had his eyes set on training and competing in Spain in November 2021 for a qualifying position at the 2022 World Games. He made the connection as the games unfolded next door in Birmingham, from all over the world, and knew it would be a great opportunity to represent his country and his family back home, especially with a family like Yelvington in the city.
“I regained sufficient health to make the trip to Spain and finally clinched my spot as one of two male duathletes representing our country at the World Games,” Harrison said. “I now aim to finish in the top 10 at the World Games and would love it if I could make that a reality in front of my family and friends who can watch me compete.”
On July 16, Harrison will compete at Railroad Park in the men’s elite race and the following day in the mixed relays. His current training schedule is around 20 hours a week, with 10 to 15 hours spent on his bike and another five running. Familiar with the hot southern climate, Harrison is training to prepare for his performance in Birmingham in a few weeks.
For Yelvington, seeing UAB’s involvement in the World Games comes full circle and continues to add to the excitement she has for the start of the games.
“I’m definitely more engaged and interested in the World Games thanks to Bert’s participation; but really, is it cool that Birmingham welcomes athletes from all over the world? I’m thrilled that his family and mine are all together for a mini-reunion and have the opportunity to experience the magical city and my new piece of paradise.
As the matches draw closer, the luck of the situation is not lost on Harrison that he often travels the world to compete and will now have the chance to do so in his backyard.
“I’m really excited to have the World Games in my area – the south – of all places in the world, and I’ll be very proud to be there doing what I love in front of so many people who will be cheering me on” “I hope I can represent the United States to the best of my ability,” Harrison said.