A group of local triathletes are tearing up courses around the province and country this season.
At the provincial championships, held in June in Leamington, members of the Northern Ontario Triathlon Squad returned to Sudbury with four medals in hand. Emilie Potvin won gold, Molly Green took silver, and Jordano Cazzola and Devin Wittig both captured bronze in their respective age groupings.
A few weeks later, at the national competition in Edmonton, Cazzola and Wittig were back at it, with another bronze and gold medal, respectively. Green also had an impressive showing on the Canadian stage, finishing sixth in her class.
Potvin, Green, Cazzola, Wittig, and teammate Aron Mohammadi have all qualified for the world championship, to be held next year in London, England on the very course where the Olympics are currently being hosted.
In addition, Cazzola and Mohammadi will compete in the junior national series this summer.
For Cazzola, Potvin and Green, the climb to the top has been relatively quick.
Cazzola competed in triathlon at the Ontario Summer Games two years ago, "but not very competitively," he admitted. "I didn't train very much for it."
This year, the 17-year-old Lockerby Composite student found that extra drive and determination to make it to the top in the sport.
"I've been training competitively just for triathlons," he said. "I was a competitive swimmer for four years but it wasn't enough — triathlons were more fun and more challenging."
Cazzola said he wasn't sure what to expect from this season, but so far, so good.
"I wasn't too sure how I was going to perform," he said. "I knew I was going to have a strength over everybody else in the water because of my competitive swimming background, so I just wanted to try to bring my bike and run up to try and maintain my speed."
After finishing third overall in his age group, Cazzola not only kept up his speed, he also qualified for the world championship, another of his goals heading into the season.
Starting out as a figure skater, Potvin also switched sports four years ago to take up triathlons competitively. The Laurentian University student shone on the provincial course — which happened to be her old stomping grounds — taking first in her age group.
"I raced on my home course so I knew it really well," the 20-year-old said.
Coming back into the sport after two seasons of recovery — a fractured tibia put her in a cast for six months and a concussion during a cycling race sidelined her for a whole year — Potvin said her goal was to stay injury-free.
"I was gradually coming back into it so (provincials) was a good confidence boost," she said.
Green, 23, has been a competitive swimmer for 16 years, but after graduating from Laurentian University, she was looking for a different way to stay active.
"I couldn't just stop all together and my brother's been in triathlon for quite a while now, so I just started training with him," she said.
That was in January. Heading into the provincials — her first triathlon — Green said she had no expectations for herself.
"I had set a time goal and surpassed it by a lot," she said. "I didn't think I could go as fast as I did."
Overall, she said it was "a great experience."
"I found the course very challenging and there were a lot of hills on the bike," she said.
Since that race, she said there's a lot of technical things she wants to work on to help her improve.
"I'm lacking a lot of experience and technique so that's what I'm going to be working on mostly," she added.
Buddy Green, a national champion in triathlon in 2006 and 2007, is the head coach of the Northern Ontario Triathlon Squad. He said he is astounded by the progress his athletes are making.
"They all come from athletic backgrounds ... but triathlon is fairly new to a lot of them so to be reaching this kind of success so early is very good on their part and shows how much work they've been putting into it in a short amount of time," he said. "Going forward, it can only mean good things, and continuing to improve on what they've already accomplished."
Posted by Laurel Myers