The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, and Angus North MSP, pulled on her running shoes to join a training session with Montrose Triathlon Club to mark the fifth anniversary of Scottish Women and Girls in Sport Week, which runs until October 31.
The club was established after the inaugural Tri-Angus event in 2014 and has grown to a membership of over 130, with 55% being women and girls aged between 15 and 70.
Ms Gougeon was put through her paces by lead coach Silvia Cranston, one of the club’s 12 volunteer coaches.
Ms Gougeon said: “Clubs like this are really vital for women and girls because it’s a way to meet people and really build your confidence. As this is a triathlon club there are a few different disciplines involved, and there are some things that I would not feel confident about doing on my own, such as the open water swimming, but that is what is so good about this club; it is the encouragement, the confidence building, being able to meet like-minded people.”
It was awarded ‘Most Welcoming Club’ by Triathlon Scotland in 2019 and Mike Talbot, club chairman, believes that is why they have been so successful in growing their numbers, particularly among women and girls.
He said: “The club works on the basis that everyone is an athlete even if they don’t know they are. The whole point of our coaching is that you have just got to get people to believe they can do it. There is a perception that triathlon is an unattainable thing, but it really isn’t. We’re a very friendly, welcoming, open club for all abilities. It’s genuinely aimed at everyone.”
Louise Wright, Scottish Triathlon chief executive, who also took part in the session, recognised the impact such clubs can have.
She added: “We know that at a certain age we can get the female drop off in sport, but if we can get females involved before that and get them into clubs, hopefully that community spirit will keep them involved. If they then see the value of sport and physical activity for health and well-being, they are more likely to lead a healthy lifestyle as well.”