In Profile: Kirsten Sweetland, CAN
The rising star of Canadian triathlon has had her fair share of ups and downs over a relatively short professional career. A young Kirsten Sweetland entered her first triathlon aged ten and remarkably won under the watchful gaze of famed ITU commentator and Canadian triathlon coach Barrie Shepley.
As a teenager Sweetland dominated national competitions and made her mark on the international stage in 2006 with victory in the junior world championship race in Lausanne, Switzerland. The following year she won her first ITU World Cup in Richards Bay, South Africa, aged a mere 18 years old. A month later the impetuous youngster was within sight of taking the top prize of $200,000 and an Olympic spot at the Des Moines World Cup before collapsing from heat exhaustion in the final kilometre. A gutsy Sweetland reasoned that if you slow down, you don’t win… it’s not a very complicated equation! I know, if you pass out, you don’t win either, but at least I gave myself the chance!
With much of 2008 wiped out with injury Sweetland started 2009 in electric form, convincingly outrunning Olympic bronze medallist Emma Moffatt to win the Mooloolaba World Cup before a fifth place finish at the opening Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship race in Tongyeong, Korea. However a back injury has since put her season on hold as we caught up with Kirsten at the Triathlon Canada team launch.
Name: Kirsten Sweetland
Debut year: 2005
World Series wins: 2
World Series podiums: 3
Well for starters, I suppose we have to ask, how is the back?
Yeah, good. Its getting there and Im pain free already. I cant run or bike yet, so it will probably be another month before Im back to normal, but Im hoping to hop back on the turbo trainer in a couple of days, and Im already back in the pool.
So was the injury something you picked up in Tongyeong?
Im not really sure; apparently it must have been there before Tongyeong. My back was a bit tight and I felt a bit off, but I didnt think about anything until I came home and it was really sore and getting worse. I had x-rays, bone scans, CT scans and an MRI.
How frustrating is it to suffer with recurring injuries, and how do you cope mentally with preparing yourself to get fit again?
Its tough because I felt like I did everything right this year with my training and my nutrition and my rest. Im not really sure why or how it happened, but you know, thats the way it is and now Ive got to refocus on the next race. I need to make sure I really take my recovery seriously and get fit again. My fitness comes around pretty quickly so Im not too worried; I need a couple of weeks.
You had a cracking race to start the year in Mooloolaba in the world cup, was that down to the winter training you had been doing in Australia?
It helped a lot. Both my coach and I were surprised by that race because I hadnt really done a lot of speed work or anything in the build up that would lead to that kind of performance. Being in Australia really helped with the motivation, and compared to here [British Columbia, Canada] with its cold days, its easier to get outside and train.
Is the plan then to go back to Australia again for the winter at the end of the year?
Yes, this time I will be on the Gold Coast instead of Brisbane, so thats the plan.
So when do you think youll be back racing?
Its pretty hard with these things; you dont know how theyre going to react and whether theyre going to take two weeks or twenty weeks. The plan is to come back for Hamburg and London, then Yokohama and cram them in ahead of the Grand Final on the Gold Coast.
Trying to get enough points for the Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series?
Exactly! It will only be a couple of weeks before Hamburg that Ill be back running, so Im not expecting big things, but well go in there and hopefully pick up a few points.
Youve been announced as one of the three women in Canadas Team Teck looking forward to 2012. How does the spotlight change, whereas for Beijing you were the young one with an outside chance of making the team, and now youre tipped as someone with the potential to do well in London?
I like it the way it is. As one of those targeted athletes you get treated accordingly. Were going to have a lot of support in the next three years thanks to Teck, and then Simons [Whitfield] medal has helped us with extra support and funding. I think its a positive.
Theres obviously a lot of focus on you, as there is on the likes of Alistair Brownlee, ahead of the Games. What are your ambitions for London?
Who doesnt want a gold medal at the Olympics? Who knows if it will be London or 2016, but thats my aim. Ive got a long career ahead of me but somewhere in there I want Olympic gold!
Is it nice to be going to London this summer as part of the World Championship series? Have you raced in Britain before?
I raced the Salford World Cup before, but it will be great to get in to London and get familiar with the area. I hope the new series works out well for me. I know its been said that its hard for younger athletes to peak more than once in a season, but if I can keep a consistent sub-peak, then I should do well. My goal is always to keep consistent, and obviously that hasnt worked out for me this year, but its a good chance to practice and thats what makes a great athlete someone whos great every time they go out.
The Canadian women had a great start to the year with you winning in Mooloolaba, Kathy Tremblay picking up silver in Ishigaki and then Lauren Groves joining you both in the top ten in Tongyeong. Do you think this is a new era for the womens side of the sport in Canada, because so much has been focussed on Simon before?
I think the womens team are really coming into their own. Triathlon in Canada has always been dominated by Simon and his results, but I think were coming into a new era where were going to get some results on the womens side at the same time as the men.