Smith hoping sacrifices pay off in Cozumel
Tyler Smith is aiming for a top-20 finish in a competitive field at the ITU World Triathlon Championships in Cozumel, Mexico, this week.
Smith and fellow Bermudian Erica Hawley will face the world’s best juniors in Friday’s race, looking to cap off a busy summer of competition and training.
Both athletes have spent time honing their skills in Victoria, British Columbia, and had seventh-place finishes at this month’s Canadian Junior Elite Series in Edmonton, Alberta.
Smith, 17, competed in the 16-19 junior men’s race and posted a time of 58min 11sec, just over a minute behind winner Pavlos Antoniades, of Canada, who crossed the line in 57:02.
Hawley, 18 and a freshman at Boulder University in Colorado, finished in 1:06:11 in the junior women’s race more than four minutes behind winner Desirae Ridenour, of Canada, in 1:01:57.
Like Hawley, Smith is soon to be a college student, at the University of Leeds in England where he will continue his triathlon development.
“I come back to Bermuda for one day, then head off to Leeds,” Smith said. “I had the opportunity to go and train in Victoria for a month and before that in Eastern Canada so I’m pretty well prepared.
“That’s why I’m looking forward to the University of Leeds, where a lot of the top British triathletes are based such as Alistair and Jonny Brownlee [who won the gold and silver medals at last month’s Olympic Games in Rio].
Smith added: “I only had about ten days in Bermuda over the summer, but it was something I had to give up in order to get the consistent training at a high level.
“Hopefully it will pay off. I had the opportunity in Victoria to train with a lot of the top guys in the junior and elite field, so it was good to see what it takes to compete at that level.
“I’ve been fortunate to be set up with a good coach [Kelly Guest] this year. I feel very good about my preparations and there’s been a big improvement in all three disciplines, swim, bike and run.”
Smith has another year at the junior level before moving up to the elite.
“If I can walk away with being one of the top 20 in the world, that’s something I would be very, very happy with,” said Smith, the two-times Junior Male Athlete of the year.
“Ideally I would like to get out of the water in a good group of about 30 guys, then hopefully we can split the field and try to get away on the bike with a group of about 20 or 30. Then hopefully I’ll have a solid run in the heat, which I think plays to my strength.
“I think I’m going to have to run about a 15:30 5K. It’s extremely hot and humid, not unlike Bermuda.”
Bermuda will have several athletes at the championships, including top female competitor Flora Duffy. The three-times Olympian is leading the ITU World Triathlon Series by 166 points heading into the Grand Final where points count for double.
If Gwen Jorgensen, the defending two-times champion of the United States, wins then Duffy will have to finish no lower than second to claim the title. Jorgensen, who won gold in Rio, is second in the rankings and a red-hot favourite in Saturday’s race.
Seven age-group competitors will also be representing Bermuda, including Karen Smith, Tyler’s mom, who is a multiple-times Bermudian national champion and a competitor at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.
Smith will compete in the women’s 45-49 sprint championship, a 750-metres swim, 20km bike and 5km run.
In recent years Smith has focused on longer distances and won her age group in the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, in 2014.
Joining Smith in the sprint championships will be experienced triathlete Kent Richardson in the 55-59 age group.
Maria Duffy, the mother of Flora, will compete in the Standard/Olympic Distance Championships, a 1,500 swim, 40km bike, 10km run.
Duffy competes in the 60-64 age division and narrowly missed out on a top-ten finish at last year’s championships.
Joining Duffy in the Standard Distance Championships will be Becci Shepherd, Sarah Ruberry and Louise Wells, who all compete in the women’s 40-44 division. Steve Smith is in the men’s 40-44 category after qualifying by winning the XL Catlin National Standard Distance Championships in May.