Simic surprised the field and herself, when she completed an excellent race to finish second behind Australia’s Ashleigh Gentle in Canada over the weekend. It was the first World Cup medal in her career and the first World Cup medal – of any colour – for a Slovenian triathlete.
Mateja Simic, left with Ashleigh Gentle and Lisa Perterer (AUT) on the Edmonton podium.
But its even more impressive considering that Simic competed in her first ITU race in 1997, at the junior women’s level, and has been competing on the senior circuit on and off since 2002. In those years, she had finished in the top 10 at European Cups and European duathlon titles, but this year has been a revelation. After competing in Mooloolaba, also as part of Team ITU, Simic went on to podium in three consecutive European events, in Antalya, Brasschaat and then a sprint European cup in Cremona. The 31-year-old mum then had a disappointing European championships where she didn’t finish, but Edmonton more than made up for it as Simic made her mark on the international stage.
This weekend in Hamburg, she’ll take her elite career one step further when she makes her Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series debut in Germany and she will start on a high after Edmonton.
“I’m extremely extremely happy, especially after the disappointment in Pontevedra (European Championships), because there I couldn’t finish the race, I was too dehydrated and just really really disappointed,” she said. “This is my best result in my career, so I am just looking for words.
“My secret, I was hoping to be in the top 10 but not in the podium, this is fantastic.”
Simic is a 2011 ITU scholarship recipient, and said she was thankful for the programme and being part of Team ITU. The team is an initiative of the ITU’s Sport Development Programme and offers support for athletes from developing and emerging national federations to race at the World Cup level. These athletes are potential elite contenders, but may not otherwise be able to attend these World Cup events. Membership of the team includes funding for travel and accommodation at a race, an elite level coaching team, a physiotherapist and a bike mechanic to give them the same level of race-day support as the elite athletes in the field.
“Actually this was my only chance to go to the Olympic Games to qualify,” Simic said. “So I’m really grateful to the ITU that accepted me as a member of the ITU sport development team and I’m really proud that I’m a member of the team.”
In Edmonton, that support crew included coach Mick Delamotte and ITU development director Libby Burrell. Burrell said that Simic’s win helped reinforce the importance of Team ITU.
LIBBY QUOTE HERE
A total of 10 athletes from eight different national federations competed for Team ITU in Edmonton, Jason Wilson (BAR), Carlos Quinchará (COL), Michel Gonzalez (CUB), Ron Darmon (ISR), Ognjen Stojanovic (SRB),Christopher Felgate (ZIM), Elizabeth Bravo, (ECU), Fanny Beisaron (ISR) and Yanitza Perez (CUB). These triathletes joined Aleksandr Latin (EST) and Leonardo Chacon (CRC) - who along with Simic, Bravo and Darmon were part of Team ITU at the opening World Cup of the season in Mooloolaba - as 2011 Team ITU alumni.
Team ITU’s final race for the year is the 2011 ITU Auckland World Cup, on November 20, 2011.