EDMONTON - Is it lonely at the top, especially when you go straight to the top, if you start at the top?
Paula Findlay hasn’t been anywhere else but the top since she burst upon the scene of elite international triathlon 11 months ago.
Sunday, in Kitzbuhel, Austria, the just-turned 22-year-old will race with No. 1 on her arms and thighs for the second time in her career and compete as defending champion at a World Championship Series event for the first time.
The blue-eyed redhead will have a chance to — over a span of just six races — become the all-time series leader in wins, with five.
To be overseas in what still must be a new world to her and beating her idols in four of her first five races while not having time to build many relationships as she zooms past them … well, the road can be a lonely place without that.
A couple tweets from Findlay in Kitzbuhel last week could make you wonder.
First there was this one:
“Grocery stores closed two days in a row. Are you kidding me!? Eggs for breakfast lunch and dinner.. again.”
Now, having been to Kitzbuhel for the famed Hahnenkamm World Cup ski races, I recall great restaurants in the Tyrol town.
Eggs, eggs, eggs, eggs, eggs, eggs?
What’s going on over there?
“Her mom is flying over,” reported dad, Max.
“Paula normally does not want any family member nearby when she races, but she is lonely, I think. I don’t think she’d ever say it, though.
“Lonely? I think so, but now confident enough to ask mom to join her for a few days,” said the dad who e-mailed her last week: “Love you lots, but it is getting to be a pain to have to talk to every second person I meet all about you!”
The next tweet indicated mom, Sheila, had arrived.
“Mom makes dinner and does the dishes while I get a massage. Sounds fair to me!”
Sheila, all those eggs aside, discovered her daughter to be doing just fine, thank you.
“I think Paula has reached a stage where she is comfortable having me here because she is going into a race with more confidence,” she said from Kitzbuhel.
“I cannot distract her. I can be a sounding board. I can help with shopping, meals, cleanup, laundry, etc. and because I am her mom, no request is unreasonable. Well, except maybe French braiding her hair on race day. That’s too much pressure for me!”
Sheila said with a camp in France, an event in Madrid and now one in Kitzbuhel, it’s been a long road trip.
“This group has been together for more than a month now. Paula has spent much of this time in her own apartment with her own thoughts in her own head.
“The team is not always in the next room. So having mom underfoot for a few days is a nice diversion, I think.
“Being at the top means being recognized by strangers, having to make conversation and connect with all kinds of people, often speaking a different language. She has responsibilities to make appearances where she is showered with adoration.
“I don’t think Paula is lonely, exactly, just lonely for the familiarity of a mom who knows her to the core for the good and the bad and loves her where ever she sits in the rankings.”
“I often miss my friends and family back home but we have a really good group here, including my friend and training partner Kyla Coates.
“I’ve had my own apartment in Kitzbuhel for the past few weeks, so I have been more lonely than usual.
I asked my mom if she would come over to watch the race and keep me company. I’m so happy she was able to join me. I feel a lot better having her around.
“And I have someone to make dinner for me.”
As for the other girls on the circuit, the ones she idolizes and has been beating regularly …
“I don’t know the other girls very well,” she said.
“I do respect them so much and I’m pretty shy so I have a hard time getting to know them.
“Most of them are very friendly and approachable and I do make an effort to talk to them at every race. I think the more we race each other and the more I see them, the better we will get to know one another.”
So far they mostly only recognize her from behind.
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