What was supposed to be a joyous occasion with the naming of Canada’s five-member triathlon team on Tuesday instead shone an uncomfortable light on the health status of its best medal hope.
Paula Findlay, the 23-year-old from Edmonton who won three golds in world championship events last year and was at one point ranked first in the world, revealed she is still battling a serious hip injury suffered last summer and is unlikely to compete before the Olympics open next month.
Findlay had already been named to Canada’s Olympic team in preselection along with three-time Olympic veteran Simon Whitfield last fall, but admitted Tuesday her recovery has been painstakingly slow.
The pair will be joined by Brent McMahon, Kyle Jones and Kathy Tremblay on the team.
“It’s been difficult, but I am progressing,” Findlay said in a conference call with reporters. “It’s not ideal not being able to race very much. I’m doing the best I can with the cards I’ve been dealt.”
Findlay’s uncertain status overshadowed the announcement that the men’s side will field a full three-man team in London.
Whitfield, who famously won gold at the 2000 Games and followed that up with a silver in 2008 in Beijing, enters as one of the event’s greybeards at 37 years old, and may not be quite the medal threat he has been in the past.
He’s joined by McMahon, a veteran who has been to one Olympics (2004) and medalled twice at the Panamerican Games, and up-and-comer Jones, who served as an alternate in Beijing.
“There’s very few countries that can put three guys in a front group consistently in races,” Jones said. “And we’re one of them. We look out for each other, and there’s a team dynamic there.”
Findlay, meanwhile, will have support in Tremblay, a 5-foot-2, 102-pound native of Quebec City who competed for Canada at the 2008 Games.
“We’d like to have some positive impact on the COC’s goal of being top 12,” Triathlon Canada executive director Alan Trivett said when asked about medal projections for the team.
The women’s event will take place on Aug. 4 and the men will follow three days later around London’s Hyde Park. It involves a 1.5-kilometre swim, 40-kilometre bike ride and 10-kilometre run.
The timing of it all leaves Findlay a little more than seven weeks to recover from an injury that’s sidelined her for the past year.
“There’s still a few months to go so I’m confident I can be ready in time for the Games for sure,” she said. “My confidence is a lot higher than it’s been. It hasn’t been an easy path, but I’m certainly a lot better than I was a month ago.”
“She still has that incredible drive in her,” Whitfield said of Findlay, adding he has been inspired after training with her recently. “To be around her, you can see she’s a very special athlete. Seeing what I’ve seen the last few weeks, that’s what’s going to get her through this.”