—Paula Findlay stays focused on process in ninth, Joanna Brown returns from injury to place 13th—
By Chris Dornan
TORONTO—Canada’s Ellen Pennock took another step forward in her continued development into an elite triathlete in the world with a solid sixth-place finish in the women’s race at the Pan American Games on Saturday.
The 22-year-old Pennock, who is one of the nation’s promising young stars in the sport, hit the start pontoon in Lake Ontario for her first major international race since suffering a broken collarbone at last year’s Commonwealth Games, and a stress fracture this fall in Australia.
The Calgarian clocked a time of one hour, 58 minutes, 42 seconds (1:58:42).
“I had a tough year after breaking my collarbone so it has been a long journey to come back into form. That was my best race this year which is positive for me,” said Pennock. “It was really an amazing experience out there with the Canadians cheering.”
Pennock, and her Canadian comrades Paula Findlay (Edmonton) and Joanna Brown (Carp, Ont.) rebounded from a slow start off the pontoon and a scrappy 1.5-kilomtre swim to settle into a strong chase group on the 40-kilometre bike that whipped back and forth down Lakeshore Boulevard along Toronto’s world-renowned harbour front.
“I was confused at the start because there was no ‘on your marks.’ The horn just went off,” joked Pennock after the race. “I just dove in and that first lap was contact every stroke.”
Bermuda’s Flora Duffy and Brazil’s Pamella Oliveira stormed into an early 90 second lead on the pack early on the bike. Oliveira dropped off the pace midway through the bike before the chase group, which included the three Canucks, caught Duffy on the fifth of six laps thanks to the work of American Sarah Haskins.
“Our packed worked really well to catch those girls up the road,” said Pennock “At that point it was anyone’s medal.
“The run went out quick and my legs just weren’t quite ready for the first kilometre,” added Pennock, who picked off a handful if athletes as the 10-kilometre run progressed. “My coach says I always work better from the back end so it was nice to get a negative split. I just enjoyed the cheering from that hometown crowd coming in. It is something I will never forget.”
Barbara Riveros was firing on all cylinders to capture Chile’s first Pan American Games gold medal. Riveros bolted out of second transition and never looked back as she stormed ahead of the field when foot hit pavement to clock a time of 1:57:18.
Mexico’s Paola Diaz won the race for the silver with a time of 1:57:48, while Duffy held on for the bronze at 1:57:56.
Coming off her best performance in four years with an eighth-place finish at the World Triathlon Series in London one month ago, Canada’s Paula Findlay also looked to take another step forward in her continued progression back into elite form that saw her win five World Triathlon Series races.
The 26-year-old was lucky just to be on the start line this weak after having to battle through another dose of bad luck – a knee injury and coming down with a sore throat – when she arrived in Toronto.
In the hunt until the run, Findlay had nothing left in the tank to challenge the leaders, hanging on for a ninth-place finish with a time of 1:59:55.
“I wasn’t sure if I was even going to start so to get to the start line was a huge goal all week for me,” said Findlay. “I felt like I could have run another 10 kilometres today. I just didn’t have the energy to take it to another level of racing.
“It would have been great to win in front a home crowd, but that isn’t the ultimate goal. The end goal is Rio. I’ve been really healthy the last year. I’ve been training well and I’m in a really good headspace right now. I have another little setback right now, but I just need to manage it and stay focused on the process.”
Selected to the team for her swimming and biking skills, the third Canadian – Joanna Brown – who is also coming back from injury cracked the top-15, placing 13th at 2:02:04.
“The goal for me today was to focus on a strong swim and bike,” said Brown. “I think I had the swim of my life, and when I got to the bike I was like I’m right here. I felt good and knew I was in it. This is a great experience for me and our team, and it is something I will never forget.”
The back half of Canada’s six-pack of triathletes at the Pan American Games – Kyle Jones (Oakville, Ont.), Andrew Yorke (Caledon, Ont.), and Tyler Mislawchuk (Oak Bluff, Man.) – will hit the start line for the men’s race on Sunday at 8:30 a.m. EST.