Canada’s Para-triathletes successfully defended home turf with a four-medal day at the World Para-triathlon Series in Edmonton on Friday afternoon.
Paralympic silver medallist, Stefan Daniel (Calgary), stormed to his first victory of the season in the men’s standing divison, while Jessica Tuomeala (Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.) and her guide Lauren Babineau (Victoria) celebrated their first career WTS victory. Canada’s rookie on the para-triathlon scene, Kamylle Frenette (Dieppe, N.B.) captured a silver medal, while Jon Dunkerley (Ottawa) and his guide James Cook (Victoria) rounded out the podium for the Canucks in third.
With all eyes on the leader of the Canadian Para-triathlon squad, Stefan Daniel, the Alberta boy lined up on the beach for the start of the 750-metre swim alongside his top international rival – Germany’s Martin Schulz – and never backed down from an all-out scrap around Edmonton’s Hawrelak Park.
When the dust finally settled at the finish line, it was the 21-year-old clocking a golden time of 58:54.
“It was a big relief more than anything today. I was really happy to come out here with the home support, put in good effort and have the race I wanted to,” said Daniel, who has struggled to find his top form this year.
The reigning World Champion came out of the water in the heart of Hawrelak Park in third spot before putting the hammer on the pedals throughout Edmonton’s punishing 20-kilometre bike course that forced athletes s up a grueling hill six times. Daniel grabbed one place before the end of the bike, withonly Schulz ahead of him while heading out onto the run.
“I was able to work hard on the bike and stay in contact with the leaders,” said Daniel. “I did everything I could to put myself in good position to get the job done.”
In the first lap of the run, Daniel blew past Schulz and never looked back. The two top Para-triathletes on the planet have enjoyed an epic battle over the last three years, exchanging top spots on the podium between World Championships and the sport’s Paralympic debut in 2016.
“We enjoy having each other in the race and I think we bring the best out of each other,” added Daniel. “I think we motivate each other. It will be another tough fight at World Championships, and I know I’ll be motivated to be better then as well.”
Schulz finished second at 59:59. Russia’s Alexandr Ialchik clocked a third-place time of 1:02:54.
The golden trail to the podium continued for the Canucks in the women’s visually impaired category where Jessica Tuomela and her guide Lauren Babineau, captured their first gold at the top level of the sport.
The Canadian duo enjoyed a career-best performance while leading wire-to-wire in all three disciplines, finishing with a top time of 1:14:59.
“It’s really exciting. We have put a lot of work in the last six months. At the beginning of the year I never would have made it up that hill six times,” said Tuomela.
Having Lauren on the front of the bike was a huge advantage. We worked really well together. She kept me safe in the swim, pushed me on the bike and helped me through the run. I knew halfway through the run we were leading, and that was good motivation to keep the body moving knowing I was getting hunted down by the American team.”
A monster on the hills, Babineau admits that was the difference to leaping onto the top of the podium for the first time of their career.
“I like the hills so I thought it was an advantage for us,” laughed Babineau. We’ve been working on our hills, and Jess has come a long way on the back of the bike. We kept it very consistent, and it paid off today.”
Elizabeth Baker, of the United States, was not able to close the gap on the Canadians, placing second at 1:16:08. Amy Dixon, also of the United States, was third at 1:18:02.
Canada’s emerging star in Para-triathlon, 22-year-old Kamylle Frenette, put down another solid effort in just her third race. Coming off a silver medal at the World Cup in France, Frenette snagged her first silver at the World Paratriathlon Series level in Edmonton.
Frenette battled her way through the swim and bike before closing one minute on her American rival on the five-kilometre run to lock up second place in the women’s PTS5 category with a time of 1:12:06.
“I’m super happy. It was a tough bike, but the run went really well. Some days the feet feel heavy and others super light. Today I just felt super light on the run. I love this run course,” said Frenette. “I knew I had the potential to be on the podium eventually, but I never expected to be able to catch everyone this year. The results are proof of all the good training that we have been putting in.”
American Grace Norman won the classification with a time of 1:11:45.
Jon Dunkerley and James Cook completed the medal haul for the Canadians, winning the bronze in the men’s visually impaired division with a time of 1:07:50.
Australia’s Jonathan Goerlach set the time to beat in the classification at 1:04:56. Aaron Scheidies, of the United States, finished ahead of the Canadians in second at 1:05:31.