Fri, September 20, 2013

Canada's Paula Findlay disappoints in women's triathlon

By THANE BURNETT, QMI Agency


Paula Findlay (R) of Canada competes in the women's triathlon final during the London 2012 Olympic Games at Hyde Park August 4, 2012. (REUTERS)


LONDON - Paula Findlay wants you to know she's sorry.

To her family, she apologizes for essentially finishing last across the line in Saturday's women's Olympic Triathlon.

To her country, she says she knows you wanted better than 52nd place.

The remarkable Edmonton athlete was one of the favoured to place well here -- even after a year away due to a hip injury.

But she faltered and pained, was lapped by the leaders and at one point appeared to just give up during the running portion.

In fact, Olympic officials at one point thought she had stopped, just like fellow Canadian Kathy Tremblay, from Montreal, who didn't complete the bike portion earlier.

Tremblay told QMI Agency, she felt good going into the water, but at some point someone grabbed at her foot and she was caught in a washing machine of arms and legs and waves in the sinister sounding Serpentine water leg.

Once she got out of the water and on her bike for a 40-kilometer race with a new back wheel, things got worse.

London streets were greasy from typical morning rain here. Riders crashed and many came in soaked in blood and gashes and tears.

Tremblay went down and stayed down.

Bruised and crying softly, with family and supporters around, the elite and well-loved Quebec athlete said she just wanted to finish, because that's what you come here to do.

But she just couldn't do it -- as hard as she tried to make it so.

"But my heart is full," she added.

In two weeks she will marry her coach.

But it was 22-year-old Findlay -- who refused to stop during one of the worst days of her career -- who captivated with her bitter ending.

She came in more than 12 minutes behind Nicola Spirig of Switzerland and Lisa Norden of Sweden.

To understand the brutal honesty of 12 minutes, the race between first and second was photo finish, where they each were given the same time.

But Findlay -- considered one of Canada's best athletes more than a year ago -- didn't quit.

She wanted to stop after the first lap of the 10-kilometre run. That's what she told her team doctor as she leaned over a barrier.

He reminded her no matter how bad she felt then, she would feel worse if she didn't cross the line.

When she did finish -- tears streaming down her face -- the crowd cheered her almost as much as the photo finish.

"I was so tempted to pull out," she would later say.

"I had nothing in my legs and I don't know why." She said she had never had a day like it before.

Only running for two months, her hip was not bothering her during the race, though her legs felt wobbly.

She said to finish, she kept thinking about her friends back in Alberta who stayed up late to watch her race and supporters and family in the stands.

Though she pushed through when most people could not, she felt defeated.

"I feel so bad," she said for her family.

"I wish I could have made them more proud than that.

"I just want to apologize. I feel terrible. I'm really sorry to everyone. To Canada. I had big hopes for myself and know other people had big hopes." A defeat is a defeat. There is no other way to honestly tell the story otherwise.

But Findlay has no reason to apologize to anyone.

thane.burnett@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @thaneburnett