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Sweetland off to the promised land

Triathlete named to Olympic contingent for Rio



Third time lucky.

After two heartbreaking attempts to reach the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing and London, respectively, triathlete Kirsten Sweetland finally got the call.

The 27-year-old Whistler resident, originally from Nanaimo, fell victim to the Midwestern heat in Iowa when making a final charge for the 2008 Games and she was forced to halt her training for the 2012 Games because of stress fractures.

To finally make it was a thrill.

"I got a call a couple weeks ago," she said. "I was actually about to catch the ferry with my friends and I got the call when we were at breakfast. We all just had a big group hug and jumped up and down."

When the qualifiers were initially announced on June 30, Sweetland looked to be a longshot to be among them a matter of months ago. She fell ill with a bacterial infection she theorizes she acquired while competing in Sweden last season. It slowed down a never-better Sweetland, but she feels satisfied with her condition just over a month out from the world's biggest athletic stage.

"I'm definitely in a much better position than I thought I was going to be this winter. I had a lot of time off and not a very good prognosis from my doctor and so to be where I am right now is really surprising and really exciting," she said. "I definitely have been stronger in my career, but I'm pretty happy with where I'm at given the circumstances."

Still, though, she is working to achieve the heights she was feeling before falling ill.

"My swimming and biking have come back pretty easily. I did a race in Mexico a couple weeks ago that has a very similar bike course to Rio — very hilly and hot," she said. "I was happy with my climbing abilities, which is going to be a major factor.

"The thing that I need more time (with), and it's usually the hardest thing to get back after time off, is that running speed, so that's what I'm working on right now. You've just got to put in the time and the work and hopefully I'm able to do that over the next couple weeks."

Sweetland does most of her running in Whistler, enjoying the Lost Lake trails, while also making the occasional jaunt down to Squamish for some training there.

In her first race this season, Sweetland took a 12th place at the Huatulco, Mexico stop on the World Triathlon Series circuit before notching a 31st in Yokohama, Japan the week after.

"There's definitely more work to be done, but to come back and be in the mix is very exciting and makes me hungry for more," she said.

Sweetland will compete in Montreal on Aug. 7 before making the trip to South America and lining up to grasp at her golden dreams on Aug. 20. Sweetland is set to arrive in Brazil on Aug. 15.

"We did race the course last year, so I'm familiar with it and I've got it mapped out in my mind," she said.

With concerns about contracting the Zika virus swirling, several star athletes have backed out of competing in Brazil. Sweetland acknowledged she's not all that concerned about contracting the virus. While there are other alarm bells going off over water quality for events such as paddling, Sweetland trusts the International Triathlon Union (ITU) to ensure a safe course for athletes in all facets.

"We swim in some pretty... interesting places around the world, and especially at the smaller races, we swim in some less-than-ideal places sometimes," she said. "The ITU is our international federation and they do have standards. I have to put my faith in them and hope for the best.

"I swam there last year and didn't get sick, so hopefully it's the same. This is the pinnacle of our four years, so if we get sick after that, it's OK. Just not before."


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