Duathletes look to raise awareness

GEORGE GROSS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:23 AM ET

You probably have never heard of the duathlon. Not many people have. The duathlon is a downsized version of the triathlon and while it is not recognized as an Olympic sport, athletes from many countries -- including Canada -- are taking part in large numbers.

In fact, the number of involved countries and athletes is so large that a world championship exists. The world duathlon championship has been around for longer than you may think.

This year's event, the 2005 world duathlon championships, was recently held in Newcastle, Australia. A total of 47 Canadians participated and several made it to the medal podium.

In the 20-24 age group, Quebec's Magali Tisseyre won a gold medal, as did Jimmy Georgas of Collingwood in the 75-79 age category. Other Canadian medallists included Ron Vancoughnett in the 60-64 age group (silver medal) and John Anthony Marriott in the 70-74 age group (bronze medal).

By now you're probably wondering -- what in the heck is a duathlon? Well, the explanation is rather simple. It consists of a 10-km run, followed by a 40-km bicycle ride and concludes with a 5-km run. The swimming portion of the normal triathlon is not a part of this event.

One of the eager participants is York University's Hannah Spence, who took part in this year's world championship.

It cost her $3,000 to take part. Now, how can a York University student afford a $3,000 expense, you may ask?

"There is no financial support from the government," Hannah said. "So, it's up to us to look after our own expenses. I earn some money as a waitress in my spare time, otherwise I couldn't afford to compete. We have to buy our own uniforms.

"There are several smaller competitions during the year and each race, even the closest one costs me about $60-$70. But I love the sport and I'm looking forward to next year's world championship which will be held in July in Cornerbrook."

Hannah herself will be competing in only her third world championship, happy that she doesn't have to take part in a triathlon because she hates swimming and the idea of jumping into a cold lake.

She is well prepared for the next event with two bikes and two pair of running shoes which she replaces every two months.

The real question will be whether she can work enough shifts to earn the money to cover her expenses.

But then again, that has been the refrain from most of Canada's amateur athletes for decades.


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