WORLD CHAM­PION

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - T1 - BY KERRY HALE

JA­NINE WIL­LIS

Hav­ing just re­turned to Canada after 10 years liv­ing in Perth, Aus­tralia, Cal­gary’s Ja­nine Wil­lis is get­ting set to de­fend her Iron­man 70.3 World Cham­pi­onship age-group ti­tle in Septem­ber in Chat­tanooga, Tenn. Then, in Oc­to­ber, she’ll re­turn to the Iron­man World Cham­pi­onship in Kailua-kona for the fourth time.

“My whole triathlon world changed in the be­gin­ning of the year with this move back to Canada from Aus­tralia,” ex­plains Wil­lis. “My race cal­en­dar has had sub­stan­tial changes, but I just can­not wait to start rac­ing again in June.”

To date, Wil­lis has logged over 20 halfdis­tance races and more than 10 full-dis­tance races, with ar­guably her best re­sult com­ing by way of that age-group vic­tory at the 70.3 worlds in Mooloolaba, Aus­tralia, in Septem­ber, 2016. She also rep­re­sented Canada in 2009 at the ITU Long Course World Cham­pi­onships, plac­ing sec­ond in her age group.

“That was only my sec­ond ever long course race and re­ally ce­mented my fas­ci­na­tion with triathlon and long dis­tance rac­ing,” she says.

In her three pre­vi­ous vis­its to Kona – in 2010, 2012, 2014 – Wil­lis placed ninth, sixth and third in her age group. She has al­ready qual­i­fied for Kona later this year, which gives her lots of time to pre­pare for the rigours of the Big Is­land this time around.

“Some­thing crazy hap­pens when you land on the Big Is­land with your triathlon kit,” ex­plains Wil­lis. “The hard­ship of the race be­comes in­con­se­quen­tial and ev­ery fi­bre of you just wants to do the best you can and put the best foot for­ward. Stand­ing there with all those other amaz­ing ath­letes, won­der­ing, ‘How do I com­pare, what do I need to do, how am I go­ing to get to the fin­ish line’ – some­how all the pieces just come to­gether.”

If rac­ing in Kona has taught her one thing, it is the need to reign in neg­a­tive emo­tions dur­ing a race and not al­low that neg­a­tiv­ity to take hold. Ad­di­tion­ally, years of pre­par­ing for and rac­ing long course events have taught her the art of pa­tience, fo­cus and men­tal tough­ness. Th­ese qual­i­ties, be­lieves Wil­lis, are para­mount to both triathlon and life suc­cess and can truly be har­nessed through long dis­tance rac­ing.

Wil­lis first be­gan her triathlon jour­ney in 2007 at the whim of a friend who did not want to sign up for a race alone. Wil­lis agreed to par­tic­i­pate, sign­ing up with some trep­i­da­tion, but will­ing to sup­port her friend in search of a new phys­i­cal chal­lenge. By her own self ad­mis­sion, she had ab­so­lutely no idea what she was do­ing.

“I was noth­ing if not per­sis­tent at the time. I rode a moun­tain bike that day which weighed a ton. But every­one has to start some­where.”

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