Triathlon News & Notes: Triathlete Attacked by Fish, Paratriathletes Head to Tokyo, and Book Awards

Here are some other tri-related stories generating buzz over the past seven days.

Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

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While the news of the Ironman World Championships being postponed until February due to the rise in COVID numbers sent shockwaves through the triathlon community this week, it wasn’t the only item to make headlines.

Tokyo-bound paratriathletes share their stories

Several paratriathletes set to represent Team USA at the Paralympic Games next weekend are seeing their stories shared in various news outlets. Sports Illustrated posted a lengthy feature on PTS5 athlete Kelly Elmlinger, offering a fascinating look at her career as an Army medic caring for wounded warriors before losing her leg to a rare form of soft tissue cancer.

People profiled Rio Paralympic Games bronze medalist Melissa Stockwell’s recent struggles with a broken back after a bike crash on July 1. “Hopefully, adrenaline will take over,” Stockwell, a PTS2 athlete who was sidelined for a few weeks after the accident, said. “I’ll have to run with a lot of heart.”

Eric McElvenny, who will compete in the PTS4 division, is highlighted in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in a piece that reflects on his brush with death after stepping on an IED while serving in Afghanistan, and how the loss of part of his right leg lead him to find triathlon just two years ago. 

And Out Sports showcases PTS2 athlete Haily Danz, a 2016 Paralympic silver medalist, reflecting on an essay she wrote for Team USA in June about being a proud gay athlete. Danz, 30, is one of 24 out LGBTQ Paralympians competing in Tokyo, according to the piece.

Safety Concerns are primary barrier for underrepresented athletes’ entry into endurance sports

This week, Gatorade Endurance released results from a survey designed to uncover the barriers athletes from underrepresented groups face when considering participation in endurance sports, and figure out how to overcome these barriers. Among the key findings, safety concerns (getting injured, hate crimes, not wanting to train alone, and having a safe training location) were the top barriers within all four groups who are interested but do not participate in endurance sports. The survey—which included 1,507 respondents ages 18-40 who identified as Black, people of color, disabled, or LGBTQ+ and who either currently participate in endurance sports, or have an interest but do not currently participate—also revealed that over two-thirds of those interested but not currently active in endurance sports said that seeing others like them participate would make them much more likely to get involved.

Super League Triathlon launches SLT Teams

As a way to build a team franchise within the sport of triathlon and up the competitive ante, Super League Triathlon has created SLT Teams—five squads of pro triathletes from around the world, each led by legends of the sport. Four-time world champion Chris McCormack, four-time world champion Tim Don, world duathlon champ Annie Emerson, 11-time Ironman winner Ronnie Schildknecht, and two-time Olympian Michelle Dillon will act as team managers, and will select their athletes for the next season via a snake draft broadcast on Super League Triathlon’s YouTube channel on Thursday, Aug. 26 (1 p.m. ET). The SLT Teams will be part of Super League Triathlon’s 2021 Championship Series and bring with it an extra $320,000 in prize money—guaranteeing every athlete will earn money from competing in Super League no matter where they place over the season.

Triathlete attacked by large fish

A Canadian triathlete training in Ontario’s Lake St. Clair had an unfortunate run-in with a muskellunge, a large predatory fish better known as a muskie. 39-year-old Matt Gervais, a longtime triathlete, was just about five minutes into a planned 3,000m open water swim with a friend when he said he felt the fish clamp down on his hand. “Your mind goes immediately to shark, but I still had my wits about me to know that was unlikely,” said Gervais, who said he saw the fish “eye-to-eye underwater” with his goggles, and was able to free his hand within a few seconds. But not before the fish inflicted wounds that required 13 stitches. Muskies, found in lakes and rivers in the Great Lakes region and Canada, are known for their razor-sharp teeth, and can weigh as much as 60 pounds and grow to be up to six feet long.

Alexa Leary shows signs of improvement after harrowing bike accident

There’s some uplifting news for anyone following the story of Alexa Leary, the 20-year-old Australian elite age-group athlete who was gravely injured in a bike accident on July 17.  Leary, who has a traumatic brain injury, blood clots, and broken bones as a result of the accident, has shown signs of improvement since being removed from a medically-induced coma, most recently taking some steps with assistance. “The last month has been absolutely crazy, a month we never expected. It’s incredible to look back and see how far we’ve come and how far this page has come in such a short time,” her family posted on the @moveforlex Instagram account, created to document her journey and offer updates.

“I am a Triathlete” children’s book racks in the awards

Last fall, Nia Obotette released her first children’s book, I am a Triathlete, as a way to inspire her niece to get into multisport. Now, the book has won four awards, Obotette recently shared. The self-published book picked up nods from the Indie Book Awards (Best Children’s Picture Book), the Best Indie Book Award, as well as the Creative Child Book Award (Best in Sports, 2021 Book of the Year). Obotette was also selected to speak at the National Conference of African-American Librarians (NCAAL) last month. “I’m a self published author, so I don’t have these huge publishing companies behind me, I don’t have a PR machine,” said Obotte. “So it’s been gratifying to know that people are embracing my content and that it’s being recognized for encouraging people.”

Jocelyn McCauley replaces Heather Jackson on Team US at The Collins Cup

With just a week to go until the highly-anticipated Collins Cup championship, Team US made a roster change, with Jocelyn McCauley replacing Heather Jackson, who said she had to pull out for personal family reasons. McCauley, an accomplished long-distance racer, recently finished second at Ironman Finland after having  her second child just five months ago. She rounds out the women’s side of Team US along with new mom Chelsea Sodaro, Skye Moench, Jackie Herring, Taylor Knibb, Katie Zaferes, who will compete against Team Europe and Team International in a high-stakes matchup on Aug. 28.

Podcast Notes

  • Paratriathlete Amy Dixon has been through the ringer recently, but rose above the adversity to make it to the start line of the paratriathlon in Tokyo, where she will race in the visually impaired division. She shares some of her story with The Triathlete Hour this week.
  • Has resilience fallen out of fashion among elite athletes? The Triathlon Brick Session discusses why disappointment and losing can be good for athletes, and why quitting sometimes isn’t the best option.
  • Olympic triathlete Kevin McDowell discusses his experience of being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma ten years ago and shares insight on his time in Tokyo with Cure Talks Cancer.
  • Olympic gold medalist Flora Duffy is still in high demand; this week she has a candid chat with Greg Bennett on his podcast
  • Pro Triathlon News goes over just about everything happening in the sport at the moment (with the exception of Kona postponement as it was recorded before the announcement), including all of last weekend’s races, and the upcoming Collin’s Cup.
  • The REAL Triathlon podcast brings on Bill Christy, CEO of Clash (formerly known as Challenge North America) to talk Challenge Daytona and Challenge Miami and what to expect from the company next.
  • Paralympic gold medal cyclist Jamie Whitmore who was a highly-decorated Xterra off-road racer before losing her leg to cancer, joins the IronWomen podcast before she competes in Tokyo.
  • Team USA star Taylor Spivey opens up about the heartbreak of being left off the Olympic squad with the MX Endurance podcast, which also covers Lionel Sanders parting ways with coach David Tilbury-Davis.

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