She wondered if she was a one-year wonder.
Paula Findlay spent the winter in Edmonton figuring it was possible she might have been some sort of fabulous fluke.
“It happens,” she said, climbing out of the shower to answer her cell phone at her hotel room in Sydney, Australia a few hours after winning the first ITU Triathlon World Championship Series event of the season Sunday (late Saturday evening back home.)
“I wasn’t sure. I was hoping I wasn’t going to be a fluke or a one-year wonder, but it was a long winter and I had more pressure and I knew that all eyes would be on me now,” said the 21-year-old with the flaming red hair which makes it so easy to pick her out of the pack which was once again the lead pack.
Findlay says she still feels strange being in the company of the other top performers in the sport.
“I’m still star struck going into the pre-race meetings with girls like Emma Moffat, Emma Snowsill and all the others.”
There was a fear factor there, she admitted.
“The whole lead-up was so much different leading into this event compared to the two I won last year. There was so much extra pressure, so many extra expectations.”
Findlay burst on the international scene winning her very first world championship series event at the Hyde Park London 2012 Olympic Games venue and following it up with a win at Kitzbuhel, Austria to become the only series competitor to win two events last season.
All of a sudden she had a ‘4’ stenciled on each thigh signifying her fourth-place standing in the series last year.
“I’ve never been ranked that high before,” she said.
That’s Paula Findlay, said coach Patrick Kelly.
“She had a lot of time to think about it. She spent the fall in Edmonton going back to school. She’s so modest and so respectful of the other athletes. And there were a lot of people questioning and doubting.”
Kelly wasn’t one of them.
“I knew I was seeing something special when I saw her in junior. She has a lot of ingredients that make her special in sports and in life and I knew the preparation she was putting in because I programmed it. There are a lot of people who put in that kind of preparation but can’t do it on race day. But Paula is something extra special on race day. She’s incredibly nervous on race day
but she races really tough and makes good decisions. She lost a contact lens out there on the bike and raced with less than perfect vision but she didn’t let it affect her.
“This will solidify her confidence to know she’s up there with the top girls in the world, that she’s very, very good.”
Findlay says it was an adventure.
“I’m equally as surprised by this win as those two wins last year because I wasn’t sure my fitness was up there with everybody else, not having raced since September.
“To have the race over here two weeks ago really helped,” she said of the Mooloolaba World Cup where she finished fourth coming in from the cold.
Many of the top competitors in the sport spend much of the winter down under while she attends the University of Alberta in search of a medical degree with training stints in Victoria.
Findlay will be back in Edmonton next week, race the world championship series events in Madrid and Kitzbuhel before competing in the Edmonton World Cup race July 10. A return to London and the Beijing final are also on her schedule as well as the Canadian championships in Kelowna.
Now that she has proven herself not to be a one-year wonder, Findlay now heads into the rest of the season and to the London Olympics as the female Simon Whitfield. And it’s only perfect she does that coming off the very course in Sydney Harbor in front of the iconic Sydney Opera House where Whitfield won Olympic gold 11 years ago.
“Simon carried the torch as Canada’s top international performer for more than a decade, but Paula just stamped her Canadian passport as an elite racer to carry the torch for Canada forward,” said Kelly.
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