World finally awaits Orleans duathlete

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 1:38 PM ET

Newfoundland is surely the promised land for Stephen Handel.

Finally, the 31-year-old Orleans resident will get to test himself against some of the planet's finest duathletes. He'll be in Corner Brook, Nfld., on July 29 for the short-course world duathlon championships.

It's the fourth time Handel has qualified for the event, but the first one that's the right fit for him financially.

"I never had the funding to get there," said Handel of the three previous times he earned tickets to the event -- 2000 (Atlanta), 2001 (Switzerland), and 2005 (Australia).

So when Handel learned the 2006 nationals were headed to the Rock, he knew the chance was truly there to finally achieve a dream.

"When I found out these worlds were in Canada, started putting things down on paper, a training plan," said Handel, a part-time athletic therapist at the Ottawa Sport Medicine Centre at Algonquin College, where he currently works with the Ottawa Fury's soccer teams.

"It was a long process that became more detailed in the last year. That's when I really got things kicked into high gear."

His magic moment came at the Canadian championships May 21 in Ancaster. Handel needed to finish in the top 10 in his age category (men 30-34) to qualify for the worlds, but went more than a few steps further than that. He won his age class and finished fourth overall in a field of 173 elite men. Handel clocked 2:00:53, about five minutes behind winner Chris Gairns of Fredericton.

"I knew it was going to be a real big challenge because of the location of the race.," Handel said in reflecting back on the nationals. "Any time you race in the Toronto area, you know you'll be up against a lot of good athletes.

"I knew I had to be in top 10 in my category but wound up finishing fourth overall, so I knew I qualified (for the worlds) ... I felt a sense of relief, a real sense of accomplishment."

Now it's on to the worlds in the duathlon, which involves a 10-km run, 40-km bike ride, then another five km run. "I'd love to be in the top 10 in my category (at worlds)," said Handel, who trains with the Ottawa Athletic Club's top speed running team.

Most importantly, he's getting a shot. A fundraising dinner is planned for Handel on July 7 at the Lone Star Restaurant just off St. Laurent Blvd. Then it's off to the race three weeks later.

Handel hopes it's the first of many. He's seen duathletes still competing at a rather advanced age, meaning his tank should be far from running on empty.

"When you see a guy at that age finishing the same race you did, it makes you think you still have a lot of years to keep going at it," said Handel, a former triathlete who switched over to duathlon in 2000.

First, though, there's that first worlds to savour.

Time, at last, to finally cash in.

AROUND THE AMATEUR SCENE: Perth's Sultana Frizell (hammer throw, shot put) has been named to the Canadian team for the North America, Central America and Caribbean Athletic Association (NACAC) under-23 championships July 7-9 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic ... Five area schools -- Queenswood, Rideau Valley Middle, Briargreen, Carleton Heights, Good Shepherd, Hopewell Avenue and Westboro Academy -- earned $500 toward the purchase of new gym equipment by successfully completing the Go Active! Fitness Challenge.


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