A Stellar Year
by Shawn Skene
Chantell Widney had the season of her life in 2013. The talented multisport athlete grabbed third place at the itu Cross Triathlon World Championships last year at The Hague, Netherlands. The 33-year-old followed that performance with a podium finish at Xterra Italy one week later. Adding a win at Xterra Canmore, and another podium placing in Utah at the Xterra US Championships in September, provided an excellent gauge of things to come at the Xterra World Championships in Maui in October, where she placed sixth. Widney’s sixth place finish capped off a brilliant season and provided plenty of optimism for 2014 and beyond.
From humble beginnings
Chantell Widney, now living in Edmonton, was raised in New Sarepta, a quaint hamlet nestled in central Alberta that has a population of 500. The prairie community was where Widney established her foundation in athletics as she participated in most of the sports offered at school and in the community. While attending the University of Alberta and working on her kinesiology degree, she discovered her natural running ability on the track where she specialized in the 800 m and 1,500 m and eventually took up cross-country running.
Overcoming a series of running injuries in 2006, Widney started to swim and bike to maintain fitness. With no background in swimming, Widney was forced to start her swim training in the slow lanes, but quickly developed an efficient stroke.
Eventually, one of Widney’s coaches convinced her to enter a triathlon in Edmonton. On race day, Widney showed up with a borrowed bike from her coach’s wife. Opening the race, Widney struggled out of the water with a six-minute deficit to overcome on the bike and run. Determinedly, Widney powered her way to the front of the race and used her running prowess to win. From that moment on, Widney was captivated by triathlon lifestyle despite finding her first race difficult.
“It was so hard on the run; I just could not believe how hard it was,” said Widney, describing how she felt after her first triathlon experience. However, she quickly discarded any negative memories of the race and proceeded to tackle training in earnest for her next triathlon, all at the age of 26. Widney was now able to ramp up her total training volume, fuelling her success. “I could now just train more,” she excitedly recalling her start in triathlon. Training in three separate disciplines was intriguing as well as attractive to Widney, and a multisport athlete was born.
Now, Widney has raced in the itu Continental and World Cup circuit for six years, as well as making appearances in cyclocross and cross-country ski races. She boasts stand-alone run PBs of 34:20 for 10 km and 16:16 for 5 km.
Behind Widney there is the tireless support of her husband and their five-year-old daughter. Throughout her career, run coach Glen Playfair has been instrumental in her run success, as has strength coach Linda Blade. Most recently triathlon coach Patrick Kelly has been overseeing Widney’s training and her recent success can be directly attributed to the veteran coach’s ability to tap into an athlete’s skills, while taking advantage of their strengths.
Swimming was the least natural sport of the three for Widney who has excelled in the water considering she had no significant time in a pool until she was 26. Widney loves riding tough terrain, “I like hurting on the bike,” she says, while running is close to her heart. “Running is so raw, you need so little equipment and you just head out the door.” Her mental game is where she focuses on getting into her zone and ignoring the thoughts of bettering anyone around her.
Big plans for 2014
The multi-talented Chantell Widney is shooting to make not one, but three world championship races for the 2014 race season. She is hoping to excel at the itu World Duathlon, World Cross and Xterra World championship races this year. We’re sure we’ll hear more from Widney this year.