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Paula Findlay: New coach and recovering for Rio

Paula Findlay wasn’t happy with the way her 2015 season ended, but she’s determined to make it to the start line in Rio this August. After a coaching change and knee surgery, the 2012 Olympian plans to do everything in her power to make her second Olympic team. TMC spoke to Findlay about her expectations of this year.

TMC: How is your health right now? Are you feeling ready to race in the upcoming ITU events?
PF: I am still building back carefully after having some fairly serious knee issues and surgery last fall, but I am starting to feel ready. I won’t race in Abu Dhabi because my run speed is not yet where it needs to be to compete at that level. I don’t want to start a race that I’m not completely and confidently ready for. My first ITU race will likely be the New Plymouth World Cup in April, followed by the Gold Coast WTS.
You recently switched coaches. Why did you make that change?
Yes, I switched to Neal Henderson last September. Siri (Lindley) did great things for me. She brought me back to loving triathlon and got me rolling with some great results. I am so appreciative of my time with her. I was looking for a change heading into an important year, as I was pretty injured in the summer. Neal has a very different style of coaching than anyone I’ve ever worked with. I’m really enjoying it and seeing good progress with his program.
Is your training different this year, seeing as it’s an Olympic year?
I am not approaching training any differently, other than getting fit a little earlier in the season as I am trying to qualify for the Rio team. I am quite injury prone, so I need to build my run fitness quickly without getting greedy and doing too much. I’ve put lots of trust in Neal and his program and have built a good team of people around me in Boulder who I love working with. I think that changing too much in an Olympic year is not always a good thing. I’m just focusing on taking small steps forward, appreciating progress, recognizing that this is a challenge and things won’t always go smoothly and doing little things right every day. I’m putting a big focus on recovery, eating right and strength/stability training to complement the work I’m putting into the swim, bike and run.
How are you mentally preparing for the possibility of racing at Rio?
I have not even thought about this because I’m not on the team yet. It will be a challenge to qualify and I am on the right track, but I won’t mentally prepare for the Rio race until I am named to the team.
What lessons from London are you hoping to carry over if you qualify?
The Olympics are a huge spectacle like no other race I’ve been to and it can be overwhelming. I think having the experience of one Olympics under my belt is an advantage because I know what to expect. I have some experience handling the pressure. My result in London was not what I had trained for, but the whole experience surrounding the Games was a positive one. I had a lot of expectations on my shoulders heading into London. If I qualify for Rio, things will be quite different for me. I have not had a spectacular four years since 2012, so there is almost less external pressure on me. This could be a good thing — being out of the spotlight, I can just focus on being ready and having a great performance on the day.