Joanna Brown stormed to her first podium ever on the World Triathlon Series, running to the bronze medal in Bermuda on Saturday.
“That was pretty cool. I don’t even know what to say,” said Brown. “I’ve been visualizing this moment forever and I just went for it today. I am so happy!”
Taking on 47 of the top female triathletes in the world, the 26-year-old Brown put together a monster run and bike while battling through heavy rain and winds – not to mention – the world’s most punishing triathlon course in Bermuda where she clocked a time of 2:02:05 in the Olympic distance race for the historic finish.
American Katie Zaferes won the race with a time of 1:59:52. Jessica Learmonth, of Great Britain was second at 2:01.33
With rain pelting down on the choppy Hamilton Harbour waters for the two-lap, 1.5-kilometre swim, the lone Canuck in the deep international field climbed out of the Atlantic Ocean onto the Bermuda peninsula well back of the leaders in 27th place.
“It was such a bizarre race. We knew bad weather was coming and we weren’t even sure if the race would be cancelled. It was pouring during the swim and it was like being in the middle of a tornado,” said Brown, who was coming off a serious bike crash at the season-opening World Triathlon Series race in Abu Dhabi last month.
“I came out of the water and I saw I had some work to do. I was determined today, and I got it done.”
She sure was.
Taking charge on the bike, Brown quickly assembled herself into a chase pack with a group of strong riders for the 10 laps on the inner-city 40-kilometre bike course that featured Corkscrew Hill – a relentless 17 per cent grade hill.
With Zaferes, Learmonth and Norway’s Lotte Miller opening a massive two minutes, 30 seconds gap on the field, it appeared the medals were determined.
The Canadian had other ideas.
Brown, of Carp, Ont., balanced an aggressive attack with being cautious on the slick roadways in her charge to the front of the chase pack where she did the bulk of the work to get herself back in the race.
“As soon as I got onto the bike I just did my thing. I pushed hard the whole way and stayed at the front,” added Brown. “The bike course is so hard. I was hurting while working well with a bunch of girls in the pack so I knew the girls up front would be hurting too.”
Brown showed no signs of fatigue when foot hit the pavement for the four, out-and-back, trips on the relatively flat 2.5-kilometre run course along Front Street that throws in one final steep climb before circling back into the finishing stretch.
“On the run, it took me a little bit to get going, but I knew this was a tough course and you have to keep going after it,” said Brown. “I was slowly picking my way closer to the leaders and was just so happy to finally cross the finish line knowing I was on the podium.
“This is something I’ve been working towards for a long time. It is good to have that validation of the work that I’ve been doing and also what I’m capable of. So many people have been a part of this journey. I am just so happy for everyone.”
Brown has two fourth-place finishes on the World Triathlon Series – both coming at the Montreal stop – in each of the last two seasons. She also capped off a breakthrough season in 2017 with a fifth-place finish at the World Championship Grand Final in The Netherlands.
It has been quite a journey for the Canuck, who has had no shortage of ups and downs while adding multiple chapters to Triathlon Canada’s history books over the last decade.
A top prospect in the Canadian ranks after winning bronze medals at both the Junior (2011) and Under-23 (2012) World Championships, Brown became just the fourth Canadian ever to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games last spring when she claimed the bronze in Australia.
Saturday’s triumph makes her just the third Canadian ever to win a World Triathlon Series medal, and first since Kirsten Sweetland won a bronze in 2014 in Hamburg, Germany. Paula Findlay won five World Triathlon Series races between the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
“That is so cool to have be the third to do this. I’m excited and motivated to get more Canadians on the podium. It is something we are all capable of and we have a strong group of Canadian athletes that I know can do this,” said Brown. “The goal is to get our relay team qualified for Tokyo so that is my focus right now. I hope this gives a boost of confidence for our entire team.”
Earlier in the day, Tyler Mislawchuk was the lone Canadian to suit up in the men’s race, but pulled out midway through the 40-kilometre bike course.
Dorian Coninx, of France, won the men’s race with a time of 1:50:36. Spain’s Javier Gomez edged out Norway’s Gustav Iden in a photo finish for second place, both crossing the line at 1:50:38.
Complete Women’s Results: https://www.triathlon.org/results/result/2019_ms_amlin_world_triathlon_bermuda/336783
Complete Men’s Results: https://www.triathlon.org/results/result/2019_ms_amlin_world_triathlon_bermuda/336782