Courageous Canucks Swim, Bike and Run into Top-10 At Pan Am

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—Andrew Yorke thrills hometown crowd in seventh, Tyler Mislawchuk 10th—


By Chris Dornan

TORONTO—Tyler Mislawchuk brought the Canadian crowd to its feet bolting into the front of the swim pack, and teammate Andrew Yorke kept them standing through to the final lap on the run while turning in a gutsy seventh-place finish in the men’s triathlon race at the Pan American Games in Toronto on Sunday.

Yorke, who grew up just north of Toronto in Caledon, quickly broke away from a large pack of 30 out of second transition with training partner Jason Wilson of Barbados. Feeding off the adrenaline from the thousands of screaming Canadians lining Lake Shore Boulevard, the two longtime friends led the Pan American nations for the first three of four laps on the 10-kilometre run.

“I just felt today this is my place, my fans, and I went for it. I wanted it today,” said Yorke, who was fourth while representing Canada at last year’s Commonwealth Games. “Not to say I don’t have a game plan, but I like to race on emotion. I gave it all I had. It just wasn’t enough.”

Yorke clocked a time of 1:49:31 on the pancake flat course that included a solid 1.5-kilometre non-wetsuit swim in Lake Ontario, followed by a 40-kilometre bike across Toronto’s southern shore.

“I had a decent swim and felt really strong on the bike. I went through all of my processes, and just nailed everything,” said the 26 year old. “When I got on the run I felt the pace was slow so I just said ‘I’m going to grab this and go with it.’

“When I took the lead I kept telling myself not to let it go. Jason and I have been training together since we were 15. We know each other’s strengths and I knew I can run with him. I felt with a lap to go if I could be in it nobody could beat me, but I just hit a wall.”

Wilson also hit a wall on the final 2.5-kilometre loop, ending in fifth spot. Mexico’s Crisanto Grajales eventually came out on top, posting a golden time of 1:48:58. Kevin McDowell, of the United States, was second at 1:48:59, while Irving Perez, also of Mexico, snagged the bronze with a time of 1:49:05.

The courageous effort didn’t end with Yorke for the Canadians. Racing with a cracked rib sustained in a bike crash during training last week in Spain, 20-year-old Tyler Mislawchuk had a stellar swim, coming out of the water in second place. The Oak Bluff, Man. rookie settled into the pack on the bike before suffering a world of hurt on the 10-kilometre run where he was forced to change his technique to compensate for the injury. Mislawchuk battled through the adversity, holding on for 10th place with a time of 1:49:54.

“I think triathletes are well trained to tolerate some pain. I just tried to put it (rib injury) at the back of my mind and race with it today,” said Mislawchuk, who was 10th at a World Triathlon Series race last month in London.

“I am disappointed though to be honest. I had some adrenaline in the swim, but just couldn’t run and was struggling to breathe properly. Everyone has up and down days. It wasn’t my day. I’m so thankful to everyone for the support. Hearing my name all along the course was pretty awesome.”

It was heart wrenching day for the leader of the Canadian men’s triathlon team, Kyle Jones, who grew up down the road in Oakville, Ont. Well positioned in the lead pack on the bike, Jones was forced to pull out of the race with a damaged wheel in the second of six loops. Another athlete went outside the boundary of the course, and when he tried to re-enter, he touched a cone that shot into Jones’ tire and tore off the valve stem on his front wheel.

“I can’t believe this is really happening,” said the 2012 Olympian. “I was lucky to stay up but couldn’t ride the bike, and my day was done earlier than expected. I’m really disappointed. This is a race I had on my radar for a long time with family and friends all here today.”

While the Canadian triathlon program leaves Toronto with no medals there is a lot of promise for the talented group.

“I like medals and I love to win,” said Libby Burrell, high-performance director. But while we didn’t get any medals this weekend, this is a very young group who have come an incredibly long way and are now a tight team. I know we have lots of work ahead of us, and still a long way to go, but I guarantee you this right now. Do not count this group out in Rio and especially in Tokyo. They obviously all have had to race through some injuries, and I am very proud of them.”

Next up for the elite athletes is a World Triathlon Series race in Hamburg, July 18-19. Canada will then send a full squad to the Olympic test event in Rio, August 2.


Complete Results (1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run)


Top-Five Men’s and Canadian Results:

1. Crisanto Grajales, MEX, 1:48:58; 2. Kevin McDowell, USA, 1:48:59; 3. Irving Perez, MEX, 1:49:05; 4. Gonzalo Raul Tellechea, ARG, 1:49:12; 5. Jason Wilson, BAR, 1:49:19

Canadian Results:

7. Andrew Yorke, Caledon, Ont., 1:49:31; 10. Tyler Mislawchuk, Oak Bluff, Man., 1:49:31; DNF. Kyle Jones.

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