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Triathlon Canada’s Elite Coach of the Year: Carolyn Murray

Carolyn Murray and Stefan Daniel
Carolyn Murray and Stefan Daniel

Olympian Carolyn Murray coaches junior developing triathletes and elite paratriathletes full time for Triathlon Canada in Victoria, BC. In 2015, she coached paratriathlete Stefan Daniel to a world championship victory (he was the sole elite Canadian to earn such a win last year). In light of her recent award as Triathlon Canada’s Elite Coach of the Year, TMC spoke to Murray about what made 2015 a success.

After she crossed the finish line at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, Carolyn Murray knew her time as an elite triathlete had come to an end. What she didn’t know then was that her continued involvement in the sport would lead her to a rewarding career as a full time coach for Triathlon Canada and important figure in the Canadian paratriathlon scene.

Murray has been coaching for over 15 years but only within the last few years has it become a full time job for her. In 2014, she was approached to help out with the paratriathlon national team. At that point, she had no experience coaching paratriathletes but was excited to try something new.

“It was a huge learning curve,” she told TMC. “It’s also been the most rewarding experience.”

Murray says she’s excited about paratriathlon’s growth in Canada. It has only been an elite sport since 2013, but since then the competition level has risen quickly and the races are exciting for the athletes and spectators. Recently, rules have changed to give paratriathletes less assistance during races, something Murray says has been great for the athletes, providing them with a welcome challenge.

We asked Murray about her coaching approach in paratriathlon. “From the beginning, I’ve gone straight to the athletes and looked for open and direct conversation,” she says. “I told them, ‘you tell me your limitations, not the other way around.'” For Murray, that meant going into this new coach-athlete relationship without any assumptions and the same high performance mentality she would take with elite able-bodied athletes. “They’re so capable,” she says. “Really, there are few limitations.” Her approach has been successful, especially for Daniel and the results he produced in 2015.

The four members of the paratriathlon national team are Stefan Daniel, Chantal Givens and Christine Robbins with guide, Sasha Boulton. Daniel trains full-time under Murray and together, the two had a remarkable 2015. When asked what the highlight of the year was for her, Murray names Daniel’s junior world championship win, where he competed alongside able-bodied juniors as a paratriathlete. “It was a challenge that he looked forward to” she said. “He always compares himself to athletes without physical disabilities. To win was a dream come true.”

So far, Daniel is the only one of the four athletes to have secured a spot at the Paralympic games in Rio later this year, but Givens and the Robbins/Boulton duo both look like they have a great shot at a spot as well. For the men’s PT4 category, Daniel is a gold-medal favourite.

An incredibly humble Murray is honoured to have been recognized by Triathlon Canada and says the award is most meaningful to her because it sends a positive message to other female coaches. “There have been declining numbers of women in high performance triathlon coaching,” she says. “I’m thankful for this recognition and hope it encourages more women to get involved.” She points out that there are also far fewer women than men who compete in the sport, something she hopes will change as the sport continues to grow.