Best of 2011: Paula Findlay opens season with hat trick

Best of 2011: Paula Findlay opens season with hat trick

By Paula Kim on 23/11/11 at 10:50 am

In addition to the ITU Photo of the Year competition, which takes you back to relive the 2011 Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series through the best pictures, we’re also running a WCS Winners series. This aims to recall some of the best series moments this year and what they meant to the people that created them. This week, as we are taking a look at Kitzbühel, it’s Paula Findlay, her excellent start to the season and tough finish.

Earlier in 2011, it seemed positively preposterous to think that Paula Findlay would finish the season off the podium in the final World Championship standings.  After a golden trifecta to open the 2011 season, the question soon became: “can anyone stop Findlay?” Sure enough, it was injury that halted what once seemed like an unstoppable march to the World Championship title.

In the season opener in Sydney, the focus was on the Australian Emmas, Emma Moffatt and Emma Snowsill.  But when all was said and done in the women’s race, it was Findlay who rose to the occasion and out-sprinted Barbara Riveros Diaz to claim the opening round of 2011.

When the series shifted to Madrid eight weeks later, many expected the anomalies from Sydney to normalise and that Moffatt and Snowsill would take their usual spots on the podium.  But instead Findlay delivered what was her most complete and dominant performance to date.

In Madrid, she exited the water in fifth place - just four seconds back of the leader - then rode the tough bike course in the lead group, even taking a few bike primes.  Findlay then surged to front of the field on the run. Helen Jenkins was the last to stay with her but couldn’t keep pace with the Canadian who pulled away for good a few hundred metres from the finish line.

“Madrid was my best race of the year, hands down,” Findlay said as she reflected on her season in Beijing.  “I had an awesome swim, felt great on the bike and had a really great run so that was the highlight of the season by far. It left me with a really good memory of that place and now it’s my favourite race, my favourite course.”

After back-to-back victories, Findlay headed to Kitzbuehel as the new darling of triathlon.  With her girl-next-door humility, now coupled with a proven ability to consistently win on the big stage, all eyes were firmly fixated on her.

All About Paula
Age: 22
Dextro Energy Triathlon Series wins: 5
Where she calls home: Edmonton, Canada
Interesting fact: Findlay won Sydney even with a lost contact lens, but she doesn’t need to worry about keeping them in anymore. She had Lasik surgery earlier this month.
You can follow Paula on Twitter @PaulaFindlay, or read her blog here

Despite entering Kitzbuehel as the heavy favourite, it somehow seemed an unthinkable notion that she would stand atop the podium yet again.  But sure enough, Findlay overcame the hideous conditions and successfully defended her Kitzbuehel title.  That victory—more than any other—seemed to signify her coronation as the sport’s newest superstar.

Ironically, her season’s descent began in her hometown race in Edmonton when a hip injury kept her from racing at home.  That same injury hampered her preparation for London and subsequently forced her out of the Lausanne Sprint Championships, where her chief rivals picked up valuable rankings points.

Her slide down the rankings and eventual finish off the World Championship podium culminated in a teary end to her season on the side of the road in Beijing.  It was a stark contrast to her glorious victories just three months earlier.

But 2011 nevertheless ended on high after Findlay was named to the Canadian Olympic team for the London 2012 Olympic Games; hardly surprising given her five World Championship Series victories in an 11-month span.

“Two years ago I didn’t think that it was even possible to compete in London, but when it became a realistic possibility, my whole focus has been on getting on the team,” said Findlay. “This has come very quick, but I have worked really hard for this. I am thrilled and excited. My focus is obviously towards peaking in London, but it will be a fine balance next year. I still want to prove my fitness and continue to chase the podium before the Olympics.”

The future presents many questions about Findlay’s current state and ability to return to the top of the podium, particularly at the Olympic Games.  But two certainties that there are no question about are Findlay’s eagerness to log the hard miles in training and her ferocious disdain for losing.  And those two factors alone may just continue to separate Findlay from the rest of the field, in 2012 and beyond.