The year of your high school graduation is a memorable one, but for Brock Hoel, grad might take a back seat to his other accomplishments in 2019. There were several big podium wins and, in August, he was the top placing Canadian Junior at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Lausanne, Switzerland.
by Helen Powers
Going into that race ranked as the top junior in the world brought a lot more pressure than he had experienced before. It was quite a distance – geographically and strategically – from his first triathlon in Red Deer, Alberta at Woody’s RV Kids of Steel triathlon.
Hoel was just seven years old then and living in Three Hills, Alberta.
“I love that race,” he says, “and it still goes on now.”
He recalls hundreds of kids, from seven to ten years old, who had so much fun and were motivated along the whole route by a very supportive crowd. It hooked him in a way that soccer and other activities never had.
“Those other things weren’t as much fun,” he explains. “The first time I showed tenacity was at tri.”
His parents figured triathlon was a good thing for Hoel to keep doing and, in 2014, a family move to Kelowna, B.C. brought the advantage of training with Luke Way, head coach at Balance Point Racing.
“He’s a great coach,” says Hoel. They started with a focus on cycling but, by 2016 Way was coaching him on all things triathlon. That was his last year competing in youth elite and Hoel didn’t lose a race. But 2017, his first year of junior, was very humbling when he didn’t win any races as his competitors changed from 15-year-olds to 19-year-olds.
In 2018, things were different. In the spring he found himself having to choose between two big events. He qualified to represent Canada at the Youth Olympic Games, but also qualified for the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final Gold Coast. The choice was difficult, but he doesn’t regret heading to Australia where he placed 19th in what was “definitely another level of competition” for him.
His performance in 2018 landed him on Canada’s national team and he maintained that membership with an even better year in 2019. In May, Hoel took first at the Monterrey CAMTRI Triathlon American Championships in the junior men category and, in July, he was first at the Canadian Sprint Triathlon National Championships in the junior category and also took fourth in the elite category.
When the end of August rolled around, Hoel was in Switzerland for the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final for two races: first the junior race where he placed seventh and, two days later, the U23 Junior Mixed Relay, where he was the team anchor.
“Switzerland really showed the amount of training I put in last year,” he says.
In the Junior race “I had a very good swim, I stayed out of trouble on the bike,” he explains. “There was a big pack on the run and I pushed the pace on the first half, but that push ate me on the second lap. Next year hopefully I’ll have the endurance to hold it for the whole lap.”
After a day of rest consisting of “an easy and short 600 m swim, little walk/jog, an easy bike ride of an hour,” Hoel actually felt better for the second race the next day.
Hoel usually trains between 15 and 45 hours per week. During high school, he did courses online for the flexibility of studying outside typical school hours. Hoel isn’t pursuing more education yet.
“I’m just training for this year,” he says. “I really want to nail my races for 2020.”
He also had two jobs during high school to help pay for various triathlon costs.
“That’s a side of it that a lot of people don’t see,” says Hoel, “it is challenging to meet the costs and the work isn’t always glamorous, but you have to do what it takes.”
Aside from regular expenses, it helps to pay for a two-week training camp every spring in Spain where Hoel gets to work with a large and diverse group that includes age group triathletes.
Hoel might be too young to recognize the music of Alice Cooper, but like one of that musician’s popular songs, at 18 years old, this determined triathlete does know what he wants.
While he has a short-term goal for ongoing improvement, Hoel has a couple of all-time goals in mind.
“I always try to set goals that scare me,” he says. “If they don’t scare me, they’re not big enough.”
Those all-time goals include being an Olympic gold medalist and an elite world champion.
“I want to prove I belong with the best in the world,” he says. “I’ll definitely do everything I can to make that happen.”