Overall Triathlete of the Year: Tereza Macel

When she arrived at the Team TBB training camp in Subic Bay in the Philippines last February, Tereza Macel learned almost immediately how hard it is to work with Brett Sutton.

“Brett gave me a hard time at the beginning,” the 35-year-old wrote in a blog shortly after her second Ironman win of the year at Subaru Ironman Canada. “Pointing out that I had gotten soft, both physically and mentally, and probably should go back home and bake some cookies, since housewives in his book don’t go too well head to head with iron athletes.”

Macel didn’t go home. She put her head down and trained harder than she’s ever trained in her life. There were hints that this training was going to make a big difference as early as April, when Macel came off the bike with a 15-minute lead at Ironman China. She would eventually fade to third in the wilting (40+ degree) heat, slowed to a walk at times during the run.

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After that China experience, it was back for more hard work with Sutton and the rest of the Team TBB crew. She arrived at Ford Ironman Lake Placid determined to deal with the “unfinished business” – two years before she had led out of the water before having to pull out of the race on the bike course.

She dealt with that unfinished business in style. Macel led out of the water (really led as the top male pros were happy to sit on her feet) and then rode away from the rest of the women’s field. Her 5:13 bike split allowed her to arrive at T2 with a lead of just under 14 minutes over Tara Norton, but most importantly a lead of more than 20 minutes over the other fast runners in the field including Samantha McGlone and Tamara Kozulina, and a lead of 35:29 over last year’s winner in Lake Placid, Caitlin Snow. Macel came off the bike in ninth place overall – only eight men were able to pass her over the tough Lake Placid bike course. Rather than the fade we saw in China, Macel ran a strong 3:20 marathon to take her second Ironman title to go along with the 2006 Ironman Korea win that came, ironically, in a race where the swim had been cancelled.

Just over a month later Macel would follow a similar race plan at Subaru Ironman Canada, leading out of the water before riding so fast that many male pros found themselves struggling to stay ahead of her. This time the run was even faster – a 3:16 marathon sealed her second Ironman win of the year.

When she arrived in Kona on many Ironman journalist’s lists as a sure contender for a top finish, Macel responded in an interview in her usual modest way:

“It feels like you’re talking about someone else,” she said. “I’ve been so fortunate to figure some things out and to have such a good year.”

Macel was quick to credit Sutton and Team TBB for her success.

“Team TBB has resurrected my tri career this year. Brett Sutton has been instrumental in getting my butt in gear and getting me fit. The team in general – it’s a really positive environment day in and day out and a lot of people working very hard on a daily basis. It’s hard not to be inspired when you see it in action. It’s competitive, but it’s a supportive environment, which is a hard mix to get at times.”

Macel would finish fourth in Kona after coming third out of the water, second off the bike and hanging on with a 3:21 marathon. It was a fitting way to end a triathlete-of-the-year season.

She is much more than just a talented athlete, though. In her own, quiet way Macel shows what positive results come from determination and loyalty. Just two weeks after her win in Lake Placid, she appeared at one of her favourite “local” races, the Tim Hortons Windsor Triathlon. Macel, who was born in the Czech Republic, moved to Toronto when she was nine years old. The former top swimmer gravitated to triathlon in 1997 and would eventually represent the Czech Republic on the ITU World Cup circuit as a regular in the lead swim and bike pack. She won the Canadian championship in 2000 and enjoyed a number of top finishes at ITU events, but would eventually start moving up to the longer distances. There were four wins at the Subaru Muskoka Chase, a fourth at Ironman Florida in 2005 and that win in Korea in 2006.

Through it all, Macel was fiercely loyal to events like the Windsor one. The day before this year’s Windsor event, Macel dragged her husband Chris out to volunteer at the Kids of Steel Race, spending more than six hours in the pouring rain. The next day she went on to win the triathlon, as she had done five times before.

At that finish line, Macel looked the same as she did in Lake Placid, Penticton and Kona. Happy to win, but with only a slight smile on her self-described, race-day “poker face.” There might not be much of an outward display of emotion, but Tereza Macel certainly knows what it means to be a champion. Hard work. Discipline. Loyalty. Remembering to help others.

The house wife didn’t head home from Subic Bay to bake any cookies. She stuck it out and earned Triathlon Magazine Canada’s top honour for 2009.

Honourable Mention (Triathlete of the Year): Simon Whitfield, Magali Tisseyre

While last year’s triathlete of the year didn’t race much in 2009, he sure did manage to make a splash when he did. His win at the Des Moines ITU Hy-Vee World Cup Triathlon could arguably be called one of the greatest finishes the sport has ever seen.

Coming into the finish line, Whitfield found himself in a sprint against 2009 Olympic champion Jan Frodeno (GER), Australia’s Brad Kahlefeldt and New Zealand’s Kris Gemmel. Whitfield managed to make the best tactical move of the group and got to the line ahead of a sprawling Frodena, a $200,000 payback for the reverse positions the two had in Beijing.

“That was some payback for last year, in a sporting sense,” Whitfield said after the finish. “I wanted to get one over on Jan after last year’s Olympic Games. I always want to win the races the other guys want to win. First thing I’m doing is buying this amazing toy house for my daughter Pippa. She’s been running round the front yard at home and really inspired me.”

Whitfield’s season wasn’t just a one-race affair, though. He also won the San Francisco Pan American Cup and was eighth at the ITU Grand Final, just 10 seconds away from third.

Age Group Triathlete of the Year

Milos Kostic/ Margie Ritchie

Regina, Saskatchewan’s Kostic won his fourth straight mens 65 to 69 age group title at the Ford Ironman World Championship in an amazing 12:24:18.

Edmonton’s Ritchie took the women’s 50 to 54 title at the ITU World Championship in Australia thanks to a 39 minute run split that was four minutes faster than her closest competitor. Ritchie, who is a breast cancer survivor, doctor and mother, also managed to find the time to claim the national title.

Junior Triathlete of the year

Connor Hammond

This remains a tough call, but in the end our panel gives the title to Hammond. In just her first year as a triathlete, Hooper won the national title, the Canada Games title, finished sixth at the world championship and second in the Canadian Junior Series. Hammond wasn’t beaten by another Canadian junior this year, finished second at the Pam Am Championship, the first PATCO podium ever for a Canadian junior male, won in Coteau du Lac, won the junior national title, (the first since Brent McMahon to repeat as junior champion), 12th at worlds after leading out of the water and won the Canadian Junior Series Championship. At the Canada Games, the BC women raced effectively, and employed team tactics in both the individual and relay races to great effect. By contrast, Connor effectively raced alone against the tactics of the combined BC mens’ team who attacked repeatedly – in the end, he hung on to finish second.  Alison improved throughout the season, to an incredible degree for a rookie athlete. Connor was strong from April to September, posting world class performances throughout.

Honourable mention: Alison Hooper

Long Distance

Long Distance Elite: Men

Brent McMahon

When you run down Chris Lieto and Chris McCormack to take a title, you are definitely on track for a great season! The Ironman 70.3 New Orleans champ takes this year’s elite category thanks to that stellar performance and a solid year

Honourable mentions: Tom Evans (national long course champion), Mike Neill (top Canadian elite in Kona).

Long Distance Elite: Women

Tereza Macel

Honourable mention: Magali Tisseyre

Long Distance Age Group: Men

Milos Kostic

Honourable Mention: Richard Pady (fastest age group Canadian at the Ford Ironman World Championship – 9:40:37), Brian Keast (age group win at Ford Ironman Arizona, an amazing comeback after heart surgery).

Long Distance Age Group: Women

Claudia Johnston

The amazing super-mom finished ninth overall at Ironman France and sixth in the women’s 35 to 39 age group at the Ford Ironman World Championship.

Honourable Mention: Sabrina Jardine (top female age group finisher at Subaru Ironman Canada).

Olympic Distance

Olympic Distance Elite: Men

Simon Whitfield

Olympic Distance Elite: Women

Lauren Groves

Groves showed remarkable consistency through 2009 at the biggest international races. She finished third at the Des Moins Hy-Vee event, fifth at the Ishigaki World Cup, and claimed the national championship. Groves put together a great season after the disappointment and injury sustained with her bike crash in Beijing in 2008.

Olympic Distance Age Group: Men

Steve Hardwicke finished second at the ITU World Championship in the men’s 65 to 69 age group, while Scott Takala took the bronze in the men’s 20 to 24 age group. We’ll happily give them both the Olympic distance age group title for 2009!

Olympic Distance Age Group: Women

With three world champions to pick from, we’ll happily name all three as our triathletes of the year in this category for 2009.  Suzanne Chandler (35 to 39), Stephanie Kieffer (40 to 44) and Margie Ritchie (50 to 54) all took gold in Australia.

Olympic Distance Under 23: Men

Andrew McCartney

Victoria’s McCartney came back from being sidelined for the entire 2008 season to finish as the third U23 at PATCO.  He followed up with two top 10’s at ITU Austin (ninth) and ITU Coteau du Lac (10th).  He took the $5,000 swim prime against a world class field at the Hy-Vee World Cup, and his season took off from there. Andrew earned his first Continental Cup podium in San Francisco, finishing second to Simon Whitfield, followed by a commanding win as U23 National Champion (and fifth overall) in Kelowna. He then put his world class swim to work at the Grand Final to establish a good position on the bike and finish 15th, equaling his best ever world championship performance. After an injury-plagued 2008, Andrew served notice that he’s back and ready to take on the world.

Olympic Distance Under 23: Women

Paula Findlay

Edmonton’s Findlay finished third at worlds (the only medalist for the HP team), third at elite nationals (and second at the U23 national championship), first at ITU Coteau du Lac Continental Cup, and 15th (Kitzbeuhel) and 16th (Hamburg) at World Championship Series races. Very impressive for a 20-year-old, and an almost seamless transition from the junior to senior ranks.

Sprint Distance

Junior (Sprint Distance): Men

Connor Hammond

Honourable mention: Jeff Phillips

Junior (Sprint Distance): Women

Alison Hooper

Another tough call, which this time will go to Hooper. Kyla Coates,19, and Hooper,17, are both coached Patrick Kelly at the National Training Centre in Victoria. Coates dominated the first half of the season, including a win at PATCO and very strong gold medal performances in the first two Canadian junior races (Birds Hill, Manitoba and Coteau du Lac). The second half of the season belonged to newcomer Hooper, in her first year of triathlon racing. She posted an impressive third at Birds Hill and fourth at Coteau du Lac, but she surprised everyone, including herself, by winning junior nationals in Gatineau.  A month later, she raced with incredible confidence, running away from a strong field to win the Canada Games individual title. She claimed a second gold in the team relay two days later (Coates was third in the individual race and Allison’s teammate on the gold medal winning relay). Both women were selected to compete at the world championship, where Hooper finished sixth with Coates two spots behind.

Honourable mention: Kyla Coates

Age Group Sprint Distance: Men

Simon Gabsch

A former national level swimmer, in just his first year of competing in triathlon, Mississauga’s Gabsch, 23, took seventh at the World Championship in Australia.

Age Group Sprint Distance: Women

Baska Ujejski

Baska Ujejski won Canada’s lone medal at the ITU World Sprint Championship,  finishing third in the women’s 45-49 division.

Duathlon

Duathlon Elite: Men

Matt Pieterson

The first Canadian elite at the World Duathlon Championship, 26th (1:53:27).

Duathlon Elite: Women

Shari Boyle

She finished 13th (2:11:46) at the World Duathlon Championship.

Duathlon Age Group: Men

Ron Vankoughnett.

The 65-year-old won gold in the men’s 65-70 age group at worlds.

Duathlon Age Group: Women

Lynda Lemon, of Welland, was first in the women’s 65-69 division at worlds, while Edmonton’s Margaret Richie won the women’s 50-54 category.

Duathlon Junior: Men

Taylor Reid

Finished ninth at Worlds (57:45)

Duathlon Junior: Women

Mariah Campbell

Took 11th at Worlds (1:23:44)

Athlete with a Disability

Charles Moreau and Grant Darby

Moreau (TRI-1 M) and Darby (TRI-2 M) both won silver at the World Championships.

XTERRA

XTERRA Elite: Men

Mike Vine

The winner of XTERRA Malaysia, Vine also took two seconds at XTERRA Brazil and the XTERRA Mountain Cup.

XTERRA Elite: Women

Melanie McQuaid

With five XTERRA wins in a row at one point this season, McQuaid also too the XTERRA USA title, was the XTERRA US Pro Series Champion and finished third at the XTERRA World Champinship in Maui.

XTERRA Age group: Men

Calvin Zaryski

Zaryiski took the men’s 40-44 XTERRA World Championship title, had the fastest amateur bike split at worlds and finished 27th overall in a time of 2:56:32.

XTERRA Age group: Women

Sheri Foster

The women 35-39 XTERRA World Champion had the seventh best run split among amateur women to finish in 3:38:31

Ultra

Ultra Distance: Men

Wolfgang Schmidt

The 48-year-old finished 10th overall (29:11:16) at Ultraman Canada

Ultra Distance: Women

Barbi Brochu

London, Ontario’s Brochu set a new women’s swim course record (2:42:41), and finished second at Ultraman Canada (27:16:00).