A nation ached for Paula Findlay when the Canadian was an emotional and physical wreck while finishing last in the Olympic women's triathlon on Aug. 8.
It might be encouraging, then, to read that the 22-year-old is being clear-eyed about how much it will take to return to being the athlete she was in 2009 and '10, when she was one of the top-ranked triathletes in the world. Rather than get stuck at the denial or anger stage, she's acknowledged her confidence needs to be rebuilt. And figuring out how and with whom to train.
[Slideshow: Heartbreak for Canada in the 4x100 relay]
From Dave Feschuk;
"I came here to win a medal," she said. "My confidence is shattered. When you come last at the Olympics, your confidence is shot. That's just how it is."
To build herself back up, change will be in the offing. The history of discord in her camp became a national flashpoint last week when [Simon] Whitfield, on the eve of his own Olympic disappointment, levelled stern criticism at her support team for what he saw as the mismanagement of a troublesome hip injury. Whitfield, whom Findlay described as like a "big brother" to her, accused those who oversaw her training program of treating Findlay "like a wind-up toy."
"I'm happy he said it," Findlay said. "It was bizarre timing, the day before he raced at the Olympics. But, you know, he's helped me out so much. I couldn't be here without Simon." (Toronto Star)
The Feschuk piece is a good read alone just for the fact it relates that because of her hip injury, there were training sessions where "she ran all of eight minutes, then 10 minutes." There is a lot of guilt-ridden second-guessing from Triathlon Canada for not handling the injury differently.
At the end of the day, though, there is a still a young athlete with a lot of potential, hardly someone who's a lost cause. It would be a hell of a perseverance story if Findlay could make it back.
From Donna Spencer:
[Findlay's] now faced with major decisions. She needs a coach and training partners when she returns to Victoria on Monday.
"Honestly, I'm more sorry about when I go home of how I'm going to get back to structured training without a real training group there and without a solid plan," she said. "That's what I'm trying to work out."
Findlay needs a coach who can diplomatically pull on the reins if she's in danger of overtraining.
"I am good at talking people into things if I want them," she admits. "I do think I need someone who is a little more strict." (The Canadian Press)
There is still reason to think Findlay can step into the hole left by Simon Whitfield wrapping up his Olympic career and become the Canadian who can win on the international circuit. The cupboard is hardly bare, with 23-year-old Kirsten Sweetland and 19-year-olds Joanna Brown and Ellen Pennock steadily maturing.
Findlay's comeback really is a rubber-meets-the-road deal for Triathlon Canada. It has to prove it can help bring along world-class racers and didn't just enjoy a halo effect thanks to an one irreplaceable performer.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.
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