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Paula Findlay begins quest for Tokyo 2020 with refreshed approach to training

Edmonton's own Paula Findlay running towards the finish line Photo by Wagner Araujo / ITU Media
Edmonton’s own Paula Findlay running towards the finish line Photo by Wagner Araujo / ITU Media

Paula Findlay announced in an interview with the Edmonton Journal last week that she intends to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games but will be returning to the training philosophy that brought her success in her early days of the sport.

“I’ve put myself back in the position I was in in 2007,” Findlay said in the interview. “I was living at home, going to school, swimming with Keyano, running with the run clubs. And then I would go race in the summer and do super well. I think there is some value in going back to that life a little bit.”

Findlay has suffered a string of injuries since the London 2012 Games where she finished last in the women’s field. She narrowly missed the opportunity to redeem herself at this past summer’s Rio 2016 Games, failing to qualify for one of the three women’s spots for Canada while recovering from knee surgery. To say the last four years of Findlay’s triathlon career have been difficult is an understatement, but the 27-year-old, who was once ranked number one in the world on the WTS circuit, has proven her talent and dedication to the sport and is determined to make another Olympic team.

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Ever since this exact moment, I've been dreaming, fighting and working my ass off to get to Rio. I promised myself that I'd be there fighting for a medal, because this feeling was the worst of my triathlon career. I've ridden the highs and lows of injuries, coaching changes, and living out of a suitcase, all in the relentless pursuit of a dream. Unfortunately I came up short when it mattered most. Upset would be an understatement, but I'm surprisingly calm about it. There is a strange comfort that comes from knowing that I did everything I could given the cards I was dealt. I've made some mistakes that I regret, but I have NO regrets for trying these last 4 years. I've been knocked down so many times that I have a hard time explaining to people why I keep trying. I have moments of awesomeness that remind me that I'm really damn good at this, that I care about it, that I used to be one of the best in the world at it – and that's what keeps me going. I'm not sure what's worse, this London 2012 performance, or not being able to redeem myself in Rio. But it's not over yet, there are still lots of races this summer and I believe a long career ahead of me. Thanks to EVERYONE for the endless support, and all the best to the Canadian team heading to Rio.

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“Being at home with my parents takes a lot of the stress off of things like grocery shopping, the little things in life that make a big difference when you have to train 20 hours a week and balance a course load. It’s a positive thing and I’m hoping that will catapult me into having a good season, going back to these roots,” she says. “I kind of tried to change everything up when I had that success in 2010. I moved to Victoria and pursued it full-time and stopped going to school. It was an all-encompassing part of my life. I got injured because of it. I didn’t have any balance. It was just all about training and all about going as hard as I could. So I think coming back to having a bit of this balance with school and my friends at home, and living in Edmonton where I’m from, is a good thing for me. We’ll see how that works out but I’m happy right now.”

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Motivated by mountains.

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In previous years Findlay has trained full-time out of Boulder, a triathlon mecca in the the United States. She is continuing her training under the guidance of coach Neal Henderson, who also coaches world champion Flora Duffy, but she will spend shorter stints in Boulder throughout the year in between races on the ITU circuit.

Findlay looks towards the next Olympic cycle with optimism, acknowledging that she will be 31 by Tokyo 2020 — a prime age for endurance triathletes.

“Four years is so long. I have learned in my triathlon career that so much can happen in one year. So it’s hard to plan for that, but you do have to have these goals so you can structure your four-year cycle.

“This year is all about getting back into racing and healthy and happy. That’s the plan I’m on now and it’s working well. I’m very healthy now and running well.”

With files from Dan Barnes.