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Kirsten Sweetland thrilled with 12th place at Huatulco world cup after rough past year

Credit: ITU Media
Credit: ITU Media

Few people know the challenges Kirsten Sweetland has faced with her health over the past year, so she doesn’t expect others to be as excited as she is about her her 12th place finish at yesterday’s Huatulco world cup. For the 27-year-old Olympic hopeful, battling extreme heat and a hilly course to a top 15 finish meant she has shown Olympic directors — and herself — that she’s back, healthy and capable of finishing races. Sweetland was the first Canadian woman to cross the finish line, followed by Joanna Brown in 13th. Paula Findlay finished 18th.

We caught up with Sweetland this morning as she makes her way to Yokohama for the final WTS race in the Olympic qualifying period, taking place next weekend.

TMC: You posted on social media after your race that you were thrilled to have finished 12th yesterday. What does your finish mean to you?

KS: Yes, I never thought I’d be this happy with a 12th place finish but given the circumstances I’m very happy. I only have a month of good training this year under my belt so I had no expectations heading into this race. It was extremely hot out there and the Huatulco course is hilly for the entire bike and run leg. The times were a lot slower than we usually see at a world cup race so I’m happy to have crossed the finish line feeling strong.

Credit: ITU Media
Credit: ITU Media

How did the race unfold for you?

The water was really warm — 29C — so I came out feeling a bit overheated, beat up and had to work hard to make up lost ground. For the first half of the bike, my mind was filled with doubt and I felt like I didn’t have it. I didn’t pay attention and just kept going and finally started to feel like I was the old me again. It was not a forgiving bike course and I know that heading into the run feeling so hot but with goosebumps I would have to take it easy. I ran comfortably because the goal was just to get a score on the board and show Olympic selectors I can finish a race and am back to feeling good. Coming off training during a Canadian winter, the heat definitely played a factor in my racing today.

Will we see you race in Yokohama next weekend? How are you feeling about Olympic selection?

Yes, I’m headed there now after a quick stopover in LA to visit my sponsors at the Red Bull headquarters. I’m hoping for a quick recovery because it’s such a tight turnaround time. Heading into Yokohama, I don’t have any specific expectations of myself other than to keep proving I can finish races.

Over the last few months, I’ve been running well in training but running fast off the bike is a different story. It’s something no one can fake In Yokohama I need to focus on keeping it together through the ups and downs like I did in Huatulco and get a score up. Hopefully the Olympic selectors will see that if I’m capable of finishing races now with only one month of training under my belt, I’ll be even fitter in three months and capable of even better.