By Martin Boyce
Minutes ahead of most of the elite women’s field at the Canadian Triathlon Championships, Carp native Joanna Brown waved to her hometown crowd, high-fived spectators down the finishing straight, crossed the line and lifted the finish banner high over her head, a grin plastered on her face.
“I love racing here,” said a smiling Brown afterwards, healthy and resurgent from years of injury and health troubles. “This last stretch here on the run was crazy. I’m just so happy to have my parents here and my family and lots of people I know. It was amazing.”
Neck and neck with Paula Findley for most of the June 18 race at Dow’s Lake, Brown opened up a 30-second gap over the Olympian on the last lap of the run and strutted to victory.
“It was so hard, but I’m really really happy with it,” signalled the 24-year-old All Saints Catholic High School grad. “It went so smoothly and it was perfectly executed.”
Officially crowned queen of the Canadian triathlon world, Brown was later named Canada’s sole representative for the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in the Netherlands – the product of her pair of World Cup medals earlier this season in New Zealand and Italy.
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“My confidence has been building every race,” highlighted the University of Guelph grad now based in Victoria, B.C. “I’ve been pretty happy with the season I’ve had so far so I was just trying to continue the trend and have another strong race.”
Brown went on to help Canada to a 5th-place finish at the Mixed Relay World Championships (set to debut as Olympic event in 2020) on July 16 in Germany. She’d tagged off to Gatineau’s Alexis Lepage for the final leg in 2nd place, but Lepage’s bike crash elimated his advantage over the chasers for the podium.
“This is a good result for a really young team and demonstrates our potential,” Brown said in a Triathlon Canada media release. “Everyone gave it everything we had and I am just so proud of how we handled ourselves as a team.”
Samantha Klus, representing Brown’s club in her youth years, the Bytown Storm, was the next-best local finisher in 27th.
“It was definitely under what I was capable of, which is super disappointing considering it’s a home crowd,” indicated the 22-year-old who’s pledged to focus on process over results this season.
On Klus’ tail in 29th was Glebe Collegiate Institute student Teagan Shapansky, who qualified for the second-day “A” final following first-day qualifiers (a new Canadian Championships format featuring shorter races).
The 16-year-old was the youngest competitor in the race that also featured several of North America’s best triathletes in the CAMTRI series event and received some of the loudest cheers from the Ottawa crowd. Racing against Canada’s best was a dream come true, she says.
“I was with Paula Findley – that’s crazy,” Shapansky marvelled. “I never thought I’d be racing against her as a first-year junior.”
The Ottawa International Triathlon featured 7 events over the course of the weekend, varying from elite competition to age group masters and Kids of Steel.
Storm triathlete Jamie Hall, who also competed in the combined junior/senior elite category, had a front-row view of the behind-the-scenes effort required to put on the show, with the parents in her club handling the bulk of the load.
“It’s a lot of work,” underlines the 16-year-old Nepean High School student. “Between getting all those volunteers, setting up all the transition zones, equipment, signs, having everything according the rules, and getting the city to agree to all the road blocks, it takes a lot.”