Not that long ago Edmonton's Paula Findlay would have been considered a favourite in the women's triathlon which takes place Saturday at the London Olympics. After all, she'd been a dominant force in the sport, winning three world series championship events in 2011. But she hasn't completed a triathlon in nearly a year because of an injury to her right hip. Now just days before the event, Findlay says she feels healthy, fit and something of mystery.
"I do feel a little under the radar again," Findlay said Tuesday as she trained at London's Hyde Park, the site of the triathlon. "I know that I'm not a huge favourite for this race because I haven't been around the past year at all.
"I think people have it in the back of their minds that I did have some success last year and won a few races. But that was a year ago and that was a long time ago. [I'm] kind of an unknown to myself and to everybody."
Recovering from the injury has not been easy. On her blog, Findlay spoke about her frustrations and her decision to manage the injury with treatment instead of opting for surgery.
"When I'm injured, I usually want to keep it a secret and hide away from the world," she wrote in one entry in April. "But injuries are one of the realities of being an athlete and I'd rather be honest than pretend like everything is a-okay. I also understand that cortisone injections are controversial, and believe me, I don't want to be in a wheelchair in five years just so that I can go to the Olympic Games when I'm 22. But I can't worry too much about what other people are thinking, and I need to trust the team of people who are helping me through this."
On Tuesday, Findlay talked about the roller-coaster year and how she has only been back running consistently for two months.
It has been "a major roller-coaster," she said. There have been "quite a few challenges this year not just with this injury but just coaching changes and so many different things, so just to be here and be fit and ready to race and be on the start line it was a huge accomplishment in itself I think."
She added that her training has been going well lately, thanks in part to teaming up with Simon Whitfield and his coach Jon Brown.
Whitfield "has kind of just taken me on and allowed me to kind of follow him around for the past few months and be his annoying little sister or something."
The real test will come Saturday when Findlay lines up against women she knows all too well, but who she hasn't competed against for nearly a year. "I know exactly who everyone is, I know their strengths. I've been doing this for a few years."
So how will she do?
"I don't even know what to expect of myself because I haven't raced these girls for a year now. But my training is going really well, my hip is all better.
I'm optimistic and excited."