EDMONTON - It was the same scene as at Hawrelak Park in early July when Paula Findlay sat slumped on the grass sobbing while being consoled by her mother.
Except this was on the 2008 Beijing Olympic triathlon course and she was slumped beside the bicycle course being consoled by a member of Triathlon Canada’s support staff after having given up her race and her entire season early in the Grand Final of the World Championship Series.
Her biggest race and her entire season having disintegrated at the same time, Findlay sat on the bed alone in her hotel room and called home to mom and dad.
“She sobbed on the phone to me,” said mom Sheila.
“She was devastated. She was alone in her room and was not sure what to do next.
“When you win, there are interviews, doping control, fans and media. When you don’t, you are alone.”
And alone was half a world away in China for this young redhead who had caught the imagination of a nation.
“Her mind was racing. ‘How far will I fall in the standings? What will people think? What will the sponsors think? What should I do now?’ ”
Despite post-race phone interviews having been lined up earlier in the week, Triathlon Canada shut her down.
Break at home
“The staff advised her well,” said Sheila. “Their support is unwavering. Healthy, she is unbeaten. She’ll return home and enjoy a short holiday from the stresses of being an elite/professional athlete, rest, repair and then take it up again for some big race next summer,” she said of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
“She is more than devastated,” said her dad Max.
“It’s another tough lesson in a very tumultuous year for Paula. She needs to get home, get away and allow herself time to recover.
“She’s emotionally and physically exhausted. She’s really sorry to let her city, country, fans and followers down.
“She needs her mom and her friends right now.
“She is so sad she wants to be invisible.”
Two months ago the 22-year-old, who burst on the scene virtually out of nowhere last year to win her first two events and then opened this season with wins in Sydney, Madrid and Kitzbuhel, looked like a lock to win the Grand Final and WCS overall title on this day.
Instead, she watched veteran Andra Hewitt of New Zealand win the Grand Final and Helen Jenkins of Great Britain clinch the overall championship by finishing second while putting a “dnf” beside her own name.
Instead, she leaves China and her first full season behind, sitting in sixth with a possibility of dropping even further depending on the results of the rescheduled event in Japan caused by the tsunami earlier this year.
The line on Findlay in her entire World Championship Series career now looks like this: 1, 1, 5, 1, 1, 1, 29, dnf.
Who knew when Findlay was forced to withdraw from her hometown World Cup race in Edmonton it would so turn around her sensational season and the spectacular start to her triathlon career?
After a string of five consecutive World Championship Series wins in her first five WCS series starts dating back to 14 months ago on the 2012 Hyde Park Olympic course in London, with a fifth-place finish at last years Grand Final zippered in there, Findlay has become a one woman train wreck this summer.
The hip injury suffered while training for her homecoming event in early July not only took her out of the race but affected her training to such an extent she finished 29th in the London pre-Olympic race.
“Paula went into this race with some obstacles. I think her hip was not completely recovered and she had a bike crash earlier in the week which was her first bike crash ever. It shook her,” said Sheila.
“She fell hard enough to leave a melon-sized bruise and what they call road rash on the same hip. And her shoulder was feeling sore from breaking the fall.
“It was seen as superficial wounds only from a ‘low speed’ crash and the team did their best to get her feeling ready.
“I think people have had a chance to understand Paula a bit and know she is a strong, determined person.
“Despite these obstacles, Paula hoped that things would come together on race morning for herself, for the team, for the points, for the media and for Canada.
“I don’t think Paula accounted accounted for the physical stress that results when she pressures her body and mind to perform every day in order to find that early season form.
“She had no energy.”
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