When third-year U of A student Paula Finlay won her first World Championship Series (WCS) triathlon race in London in July, she shocked the world. It was equally shocking when she won her second WCS race in August—the only woman to win back-to-back races on the top-level circuit this season.
In the first race the Edmonton native pulled up with the leaders in the bicycle segment of the competition and then, with about 800 metres to go, she pulled away from the leading pack of four runners and never looked back. Finlay won in one-hour, 51 minutes and 48 seconds on the Hyde Park course that will be used in the 2012 Olympics.
Finlay following her July 24 triathlon win in London.
“I immediately thought of everyone back home in Edmonton and how cool this was to win such a big race,” Finlay says.
The second shocker came in August in Kitzbuehel, Austria, where this time she swam, biked and ran to victory in just over two hours. Kitzbuehel is actually Findlay’s fourth victory of her rookie campaign after also winning gold against a non-WCS field of competitors in Mexico and Quebec. Her next race — the last of the WCS season — is slated to kick off in Belgium in September after which she’ll return to the U of A to continue her studies. Finlay previously competed for over two seasons on the U of A track and field team and as a member of the varsity swim team. She was named Canada West Athlete of the year in 2007.
As for winning in Kitzbuehel, it’s become a sort of Canadian tradition. Back in the early 1980s, the downhill skiers known as “The Crazy Canucks” owned Kitzbuehel with Ken Read winning the famous — and feared — Hahnenkamm downhill there in 1980, followed by Steve Podborski winning there back-to-back in ’81 and ’82, and Todd Brooker finishing up the string of victories with his win in 1983. Now Findlay has added her name to the Canuck honour roll.
“The whole city’s really cool,” she says. “They have the names of downhill ski race winners on the gondola lifts — including some Canadians. It’s definitely a favourite place of mine to race.”