(ISN) – TORONTO—Kirsten Sweetland will lead a talented group of Canadian triathletes mixed with veteran leadership and youthful drive into the pre-Olympic year as Triathlon Canada unveiled its 2015 National and Development Team on Wednesday.
Selected by virtue of the new National Team Tiering system in an effort to clearly outline athletes needs for development, the national body divided its National Team into five tiers: Olympic Podium Class; World Class; International Class; International Potential; and International Pathway. The first three tiers represent Canada’s National Team athletes, while the final two categories represent the Development Team. (Performance standards for each tier are outlined in attached document).
“Tiering systems are widely used by our top competitors around the world, and if Canada truly wants to be world leading in triathlon it is critical for us to implement a similar structure,” said Libby Burrell, high-performance director, Triathlon Canada. “Being the best in Canada does not mean we are the best in the world. This athlete-centric model not only provides our team members with a better understanding of the performance criteria required to advance in their long-term development, but it is also a better benchmark for us internationally.”
With less than 24 months remaining until the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio, Victoria’s Kirsten Sweetland is the lone athlete identified in the Olympic Podium Class based on performances in 2014. The 26-year-old is coming off a breakthrough season where she won her first World Triathlon Season medal after finishing third in Hamburg, Germany. She followed that performance up with another run into the history books, becoming just the third Canadian ever to podium at the Commonwealth Games by winning the silver medal in Glasgow, Scotland.
Canada’s two lightning-quick redheads, Paula Findlay (Edmonton) and Sarah-Anne Brault (Quebec City) were named to the World Class category. Battling injuries over the last three years, Findlay finally made her return to elite racing on her home streets in Edmonton where she put down a solid 15th-place finish at the Grand Final this fall in her first Olympic distance start since the 2012 Games in London. Now modeling a new appreciation for racing, Findlay was the number-one ranked triathlete on the planet with five World Triathlon Series victories before suffering near career-threatening injuries. The 25-year-old continued her comeback with a fourth, and silver medal finish, in her final two World Cup races this year.
Brault also demonstrated her potential to charge for the elite podium this year with two stellar top-eight finishes on the elite circuit that propelled her to 18th overall in the official World Triathlon Series rankings. The 24 year old narrowly missed the podium at the season-opener in Auckland, New Zealand where she was fourth, and was seventh in Yokohama, Japan.
Canada’s top-two males, along with a trio of determined women make up the International Class tier. The veteran of the national team at 30 years old, Kyle Jones (Oakville, Ont.) has climbed onto the World Cup podium twice in his career, and has a sixth-place finish at the 2012 Grand Final – just weeks after making his Olympic debut in London.
He will be joined in men’s races with Andrew Yorke (Caledon, Ont.) who is coming off a memorable season of his own with a fourth-place finish at the Commonwealth Games. The 25 year old also put down a 15th-place finish in Yokohama, Japan for his career-best result on the World Triathlon Series.
A relentlessly determined group of women loaded with potential will also be ranked in the World Class tier. Regulars on the podium in development-level racing, Amelie Kretz (Blainville, Que.), Ellen Pennock (Calgary), and Joanna Brown (Carp, Ont.) have split their time competing on the World Triathlon Series, World Cups, and Continental Cup circuits over the last two years. Pennock, 22, represented Canada at the Commonwealth Games last year, and won the silver medal at the 2013 Under-23 World Championships. Kretz, 21, shared the U23 World Championship podium with Pennock by claiming the bronze. She also won the gold at a World Cup in Edmonton two years ago. Brown, 22, has two World Championship medals to her credit. She won the bronze at the Under-23’s in 2012, and was third at the World Juniors in 2010.
“While still young, this is a group of athletes that have all had a great success at the development level, and has demonstrated the potential to get Canada back on the podium at elite international triathlon races,” said Burrell. “As a team, we have been focused on making steady progress while advancing many of these dedicated individuals into elite level athletes. We are going to continue to make positive strides together, with the common goal of winning more medals for Canada.”
Canada’s development level athletes will make up the fourth and fifth tiers. Alexis Lepage (Quebec City), Tyler Mislawchuk (Oak Bluff, Man.), Russell Pennock (Calgary), and Xavier Grenier-Talavera (Vaudreuil, Que.) will form the International Potential class, which requires top-10 results at the Under-23 or Junior World Championships. Emy Legault (Ile Perrot, Que.), Jeremy Briand (Sainte-Julie, Que.), and Alexander Hinton (Kingston, Ont.) round out the development level athletes in the International Pathway tier.