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BEVERLEY SMITH

Canadian triathletes get early start on Olympic qualifying Add to ...

With the Olympics only six months and a bit away, Canadian triathletes are pulling out all the stops, just to qualify berths for the London Games.

Desperate desires breed desperate measures.

Canadians don’t often compete in triathlon in January. Picture Simon Whitfield chugging his bike through a snowdrift or swimming in a northern, icy bay. But on Sunday, Canadian triathletes won three medals at the Pan American championships in La Paz, Argentina, and chalked up a few more points toward a start in London.

Whitfield, the Olympic champion in 2000, the first year triathlon joined the Olympic fold, didn’t compete. He’s already been named to the Olympic team, by special dispensation, even though he hasn’t met qualification standards yet.

In Argentina, Brent McMahon of Victoria, B.C. won the silver medal behind Tyler Butterfield of Bermuda, while Kyle Jones of Oakville, got the bronze.

But the big surprise was the emergence of Sarah-Anne Brault of Winnipeg, who got onto the triathlon radar when she defeated Paula Findlay at the Canadian championships last year . Findlay astonished the world last year as she won triathlon after triathlon against the best the sport had to offer and became an overnight sensation on the tour. Is Brault following in her footsteps?

Brault won the women’s division by an astonishing second, in 2:07.10. She a student at the University of West Virginia and on Sunday defeated American runners Jilian Petersen and Margaret Shapiro.

Kathy Tremblay of Montreal – the Canadian woman everybody had their eyes on at this event – finished fourth.

“It’s not often we race so early in the season,” Jones said. “But I felt really fit coming into the event. This was a good reminder that it’s tough to come from a Canadian winter and perform well in a hot race.”

The top-ranked 50 athletes in the world championship series qualify for the Olympics, with the qualification period ending on May 31. Now the Canadians will be dialling down their training to start their season when they usually do – at a series of events in Australia in March. Good on ‘em.

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