FORMER ballet dancer Jemima Cooper is now winning medals in the very different sport of triathlon.

The 20-year-old from Hereford spent 16 years training to be a professional dancer before illness made her take a change of direction in life.

After enrolling into university she joined the University of Bath Triathlon Club and after just few months training she finished first woman in the open category of the prestigious Cardiff Sprint Triathlon last weekend, beating over 100 other women.

The former Hereford and Worcestershire Cross-Country Champion was second after the 750-metre swim but overtook her rival in transition onto the bike and never looked back completing the 20-kilometres bike ride and five-kilometre run in a clear lead.

Cooper finished in a time of one hour 14 minutes and 34 seconds, a minute and 27 seconds ahead of her nearest rival and 16th overall out of 300 including men.

"The truth is, I am the not meant to be triathlete as my years of ballet training certainly did nothing for my bike power, and a fear of water as a child was not pointing towards being successful in open water swimming," said Cooper.

"When I joined university the running section was a bit one track minded and I wanted something a little bit more diverse.

"Here I am just a few months on, giving triathlon a go, training hard and wining prizes, all because I gave the sport a chance!

"The weather in Cardiff was pretty horrific which meant that the water had a lot of waves, so it was quite scary but went well. I was second out of the water but overtook the other woman coming into transition.

"I didn't see another lady throughout the race and was just picking off guys in front of me as I was trying to over-take as many people as I could.

"It's a head game at the top level as the physical margins are quite small so it's about who can push themselves for gold and not settle for anything less.

"I was over the moon to win and was on cloud nine as this has been quite a journey."

It was Cooper's second victory after also finishing first in her age group and fifth overall out of over 200 woman in the Cotswold Women Only Triathlon last month.

She is trained by professional triathlete Eloise DuLuart and has GB Paralympic fencing and basketball squad nutritionalist Renee McGregor helping.

Cooper's next challenge will be the gruelling Alpe d'Huez Triathlon, in France later this month which includes a 28-kilometre cycle up a mountain topping out at 1,800 metres altitude where the 6.7- kilometre run takes place.

"It will be my first time racing at altitude which has very different effects on the body so preparation needs to be done," added Cooper.

"It will be a different mental and physical test."

Cooper has dreams of qualifying for the GB Age Group Triathlon Championships 2018 at the end of the season before stepping up to Olympic distance events as an elite level, professional triathlete next year.