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Up-and-coming junior athlete: Oliver Blecher

Photo courtesy of Oliver Blecher.
Photo courtesy of Oliver Blecher.

Oliver Blecher started his 2015 season off on a high note when he took silver at the CAMTRI Junior North American Triathlon Championships in Sarasota, Florida. Last weekend he improved that performance, taking first place at the same race. The 18-year-old from Port Hope, Ontario is one of Ontario’s rising triathlon stars. Under the tutelage of some of Canada’s top coaches, Blecher hopes this is just one of many wins in a long triathlon career ahead.

Blecher has been on the go non-stop since high school. “I had a background in swimming and cross-country before high school,” he told TMC. “But I knew I was going to fully commit to triathlon in high school. I had a tough time deciding between swimming and running. I had done some smaller tris for fun as a kid and felt that was where I was best suited. Once I started triathlon, I always intended to pursue it as seriously as possible.”

His first introduction to triathlon came after he met coach Barrie Shepley at a local race. Shepley invited him down to one of his training camps in Tucson. “That’s where I knew this was what I wanted to do,” says Blecher.

It hasn’t just been triathlon that has kept him busy. Ever since getting into the sport, he’s had his eye on other goals, too. “Next year I’ll be going to Brown University for applied mathematics-economics,” he says. “I had to work really hard in high school to get in, but I wanted to get into the best academic school that I could. I’ve been balancing training and school for a while now.”

At Brown, he’ll run for the cross-country team. “I met the coach when I was visiting the school. I knew it would be a good fit,” he says. He plans to do the rest of triathlon training solo, but hopes to get involved with the school’s cycling club if there’s time.

Blecher took a year off of school after high school to devote his time to triathlon. “I went to Spain last summer to train with the Wollongong Wizards. I went into it feeling like I hadn’t earned my place in a group like that, with some of the top triathletes. But they made me feel so welcome and they’ve helped and supported me so much.”

This past year, he says, has been the most important yet in his triathlon career for that reason. “In Spain and the other places I’ve trained, I’ve been able to meet so many great older athletes who treat me like a peer instead of just a junior.” He has trained with Craig Taylor’s group in Florida and under Johnathan Hall’s guidance with the national training centre in Victoria. “I take advice from as many experienced coaches and athletes as possible,” he says. “But Barrie (Shepley) is who I talk to the most.”

Shepley has helped him design his race plans and set his schedule for the rest of the year. He’ll race at the ITU CAMTRI Pan Am Continental Cup Sprint Triathlon in April and return to Europe this summer to race and train with a German triathlon team. After that, he plans to race at some Canadian junior races and hopefully qualify for world championships. “That’s the ultimate goal this year,” he says. “With triathlon, you have to expect that your plans will change because things get in the way. Injuries can happen, there can be setbacks.”

Regardless of what happens this year, Blecher has a long triathlon future ahead of him. “I’ll be sticking with ITU short course racing,” he says. “I love it. And as with any serious short course athlete, I want to make an Olympic team down the road.”

If his short time in the sport so far is any indication, we can expect to see big things from this hard-working athlete. An Olympic appearance could very well be one of them.

Oliver thanks Liuna and Athlete’s Care for their support.