Simon Whitfield, the first-ever Olympic champion in triathlon, has long been the face of the sport in Canada. Now, six athletes are hoping to build on his legacy and make a name for themselves at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto.
The Canadian team, announced Sunday, is a mix of veterans, which generally means athletes inspired by Whitfield’s gold medal win at the 2000 Sydney Games, and younger up and comers, most of whom were spurned on by his gutsy run for silver at the 2008 Beijing Games.
The 26-year-old from Edmonton had a spectacular and speedy rise to the top of the elite rankings only to suffer a series of injuries culminating in a heart-breaking last-place finish at the 2012 London Olympics.
It took two more years of battling through a hip injury, stress fractures, an iron deficiency, and coaching changes before she finally got back on track. Last year, in her first race since London, she was 15th at world championships. Then, two weeks later she finished 4th at a World Cup and a week after that stepped on the podium again with a silver medal.
The 30-year-old from Oakville has been Canada’s top male triathlete since Whitfield retired after the 2012 Games and he’s got a bit of a score to settle at these Pan Ams in his own backyard.
At the last two Pan Am Games, Jones was just off the podium in fourth place.
He grew up listening to Olympic stories from his father, Doug Jones, who coached athletes on Canadian canoe teams. But instead of following in dad’s shoes, he opted for the swim-bike-run discipline. He did his first Kids of Steel triathlon when he was 10, made his World Cup debut in 2005 and was 25th at the 2012 Olympics.
The 26-year-old from Caledon East, who was an alternate for the London Olympics, made the jump to the senior national team in 2013. A year later he had a breakthrough performance at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, where he finished fourth in a deep field.
He grew up competing in a variety of sports and did his first triathlon in 2000 (with his dad), deciding the sport looked cool after watching Whitfield win at the Olympics.
The 22-year-old from Carp, Ont. made her international debut in 2009 and won a bronze medal at the junior worlds the next year.
Last year, at the senior level, at the Pan American championships in Dallas, she drove the chase pack on the 40-km bike to overtake the few speedy swimmers who had taken the lead and put herself in medal contention for most of the 10-km run, until she was forced to wait out a time penalty for not putting her goggles in her bin after the swim. She still finished 5th.
The 22-year-old from Calgary was fourth in her World Cup debut in 2012 and won a silver medal at the U23 grand finals. She competed in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games but didn’t finish the race after breaking her collarbone during a bike crash. That injury also ended her season but she’s back to form now.
The 20-year-old from Oak Bluff, Man., has been on the national development team for three years and really stepped it up this year. He made his ITU World Triathlon Series debut in 2015 and, in his third start on the elite circuit, finished 10th . That was the highest finish for a Canadian man at that race in London.
He competed in his first triathlon when he was 15, having started training as a way to cross-train for hockey and soccer.