Canada’s Paula Findlay took a small, yet significant, step forward in her long rebuild to elite form by winning the silver medal at the Elite Sprint PATCO Premium Cup Race hosted by the Pushor Mitchell Apple Triathlon in Kelowna Sunday.
Competing in her first race since being sidelined in March with a stress fracture, the 25-year-old Edmontonian enjoyed a solid outing on the picturesque Kelowna sprint course to finish as the lone Canadian on the podium, in second spot at 59 minutes 52 seconds.
“I’m just so happy to return to racing and be able to finish the race,” beamed the relentless redhead. Findlay racked up five World Triathlon Series victories before a nagging hip injury led to a heartbreaking Olympic debut in 2012 and a series of injuries she has had to battle through both mentally and physically.
“I’m trying to work my way back up there. I know I have a lot of work to do. It just feels so good to be racing again. This is my favourite place to race so I’m happy I was able to return here.”
With the stress fracture limiting Findlay to swim and bike training for the majority of the last year, the determined Canuck’s game plan was simple on Sunday.
“Coming into the race I knew I had to stick with Katie (Hursey). She is one of the strongest cyclists in the sport and I knew if I stuck with her it would be a good place to be,” said Findlay. “We opened a huge gap off the bike because we worked really well together. We were relentless. We were rotating and surging and motivated and it was a great bike.”
Findlay led the field out of the second transition where she tested her run fitness for the first time. The American Hursey caught Findlay just one-kilometre into the five-kilometre run and never looked back, charging to the gold medal step of the podium with a time of 59:36.
“I was really happy to have Paula there with me all day,” said Hursey. “We were extremely motivated and worked so well together. I love this course. I think it plays into my strength and it is very hard.”
Erin Dolan, also of the United States, rounded out the women’s podium in third spot at 1:01:22. Victoria’s Alison Hooper was the next best Canadian in fifth spot with a time of 1:01:45.
The Canadians were shut out of the podium in the men’s sprint race. Victoria’s Andrew McCartney was in the medal mix through the swim and bike legs, but ran out of gas after charging onto the run course and dropped to fifth spot at 55:17 when all was said and done.
Tommy Zafares (28), of the United States, ran away with the gold medal after crossing the finish line with a time of 54:24 in his first trip to Canada.
“The course was great and really suits me,” said Zafares. “I knew there was lots of fast runners so I swam and biked as hard as I could to open up a gap on the run. There was lots of give and take but we worked well together in the pack.”
Two Aussies grabbed the final two spots on the podium. 17-year-old Calvin Quirk locked up the silver medal at 55:00, while Daniel Coleman posted a bronze-medal time of 55:08.
Many of the best athletes on the planet will now head to Stockholm, Sweden for a World Triathlon Series race, Aug 23 to 24, before the world descends in Edmonton for the TransCanada Corp. World Triathlon Grand Final, Aug 26 to September 1.
Triathlon Canada is the governing body for triathlon in the country. Recognized as an Olympic medal sport since 2000 and Paralympic medal sport as of 2016, Triathlon Canada’s mandate is to promote, foster, organize and develop the sport of triathlon, and its related disciplines, in Canada. For more information on Triathlon Canada, please visit us atwww.triathloncanada.com on the Internet.