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Paula Findlay Continues her Comeback in Edmonton


In her first elite race in her hometown, Paula Findlay gave her fans a lot to cheer about, finishing 15th in the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final at William Hawrelak Park on Saturday.


“I’m very happy. This was such a great race – I actually caught glimpses of my old self,” said Findlay, who was added to the Grand Final startlist just two weeks ago following a difficult four years of battling injuries, including a stress fracture in her hip this past March. “Racing at home is like a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I tried to savour every moment. There were deafening cheers, and so cool to hear ‘Paula, Paula, Paula’ all over the course.”


Racing her first Olympic distance and 10-kilometre run at the elite level since the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London, Findlay overcame her own uncertainty in her run fitness to cross the finish line in 2:02:10. All smiles in the finish area, Findlay was quick to acknowledge the impact of new coach Siri Lindley on her performance.


“She makes me fearless. She believes in me, which makes me believe in myself,” the redhead said of Lindley, who won the 2001 world championship race, also hosted in Edmonton.


Teammates Sarah-Anne Brault (Quebec City) and Kirsten Sweetland (Victoria) were unable to finish the race. Brault lacked the energy to complete the swim following a long season. Meanwhile, a disappointed Sweetland, who was ranked fifth in the world heading into Saturday’s race, saw a resurgence of a stomach bug she’d been battling earlier in the week and pulled out during the bike portion.


“I thought I’d be okay, but when you get to that per cent effort, any illness comes out,” said Sweetland, who dismounted her bike in tears. “I had a great start – one of the best of my careers, but within a few strokes I knew I was battling. I was being passed on the second lap of the swim. I tried, I really tried. It’s really hard, but it’s completely out of your control.


“I haven’t finished – or started – a world championship since 2010. If you’d asked me at the beginning of the season if I’d be in this position at the final race, I would never have imagined I’d progressed this fast,” said Sweetland, whose stellar season marks a turning point in a career plagued with injury.


Despite the DNF, Sweetland finishes the season ranked ninth in the world.


The USA’s Gwen Jorgensen showed fans just why she has earned the top ranking, overcoming a significant deficit leading into the 10K run to overtake and beat the leaders, clocking in at 2:00:05. New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt, who led most of the race, finished second in 2:00:21, and fellow Kiwi Nicky Samuels was third in 2:00:31.


The final World Triathlon Series rankings for 2014 saw Jorgensen maintain her commanding lead as the top-ranked elite woman with 5,085 points. American Sarah Groff, who finished Saturday’s race in 4th, finished the season ranked second with 3,987 points, while Hewitt logged 3,845 points for third.


Alexis Lepage and Tyler Mislawchuk end rookie Under-23 season with top-10 finishes. France’s Dorian Coninx, won in 1:53:06 while Great Britain’s  Marc Austin and Gordon Benson finished second and third, respectively, in 1:53:20 and 1:53:30.


For top Canadian finishers Lepage and Mislawchuk it was a story of broken spokes. The duo both took a more conservative approach in the bike portion, staying towards the back of the lead pack, and successfully avoided disaster.


“It meant I started the run on fresh legs,” said Lepage of the mishap. “It’s my first year racing U23, so I’m very happy. It’s really good for [Tyler and I] to finish seventh and eighth; we can still learn a lot.”


Mislawchuk, who also overcame a wave of nausea on the bike portion after swallowing some water during the swim, attributes his growth this season to Triathlon Canada High-Performance Director Libby Burrell, and the resources that allowed him to immerse himself in triathlon at a high-performance level while living and training with some of the world’s best in Spain.


“Libby has stepped up the whole game, taking it to the next level,” said the Oak Bluff, Manitoba native who just turned 20.


An overall strong finish for Canada also saw Alexander Hinton (Kingston, Ont.) as the 19th competitor to cross the line, clocking in at 1:55:44, while teammate Taylor Forbes’ time of 2:02:50 put him in 37th position.


From Triathlon Canada. Full results are available at www.triathlon.org/results