YOUTH IN TRAN­SI­TION

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - SWIM BIKE RUN TRANSITION - BY HE­LEN POW­ERS

Bal­anc­ing a univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion with swim­ming, run­ning, and bik­ing is what an am­bi­tious group of triath­letes have been do­ing at the Univer­sity of Guelph for the past decade. Their coach, Craig Tay­lor, says it is the best job he’s ever had and he’s look­ing for­ward to a brand new phase the group be­gan in April.

In 2007, Triathlon On­tario opened a Pro­vin­cial Triathlon Cen­tre at the univer­sity and brought on Tay­lor to run the pro­gram. Three years later, it evolved into one of Triathlon Canada’s Re­gional Train­ing Cen­tres un­til this March, when the agency re­struc­tured its pro­grams. That de­ci­sion has cre­ated in­de­pen­dence and a new name for Tay­lor’s group: the Guelph Triathlon Pro­ject.

“We in­vested a lot of work to build this,” ex­plains Tay­lor. “There is great in­fra­struc­ture in Guelph and I would like the pro­gram to con­tinue to rec­og­nize the legacy of every­one who kept it go­ing. There is a crit­i­cal mass of ath­letes here, a good crowd who are pur­su­ing elite and de­vel­op­ment lev­els.”

Many great ath­letes have come out of the Guelph com­mu­nity and the Mar­lins, a lo­cal swim club, sent team mem­bers to the 2010 and 2016 Olympics. One of the club’s coaches works with the var­sity team too. She is one of many univer­sity staff who share their ex­per­tise with Tay­lor’s squad. “When the pro­gram landed there, we were noth­ing but wel­come,” Tay­lor re­calls. “The univer­sity made the space avail­able and every­one has al­ways been very col­lab­o­ra­tive.”

The Guelph Triathlon Pro­ject helps young adults tran­si­tion from ju­nior to the U23 cat­e­gory. “There is a chal­lenge of where to go when triath­letes get out of ju­nior level,” says Tay­lor. “The big stars might choose to train over­seas, but it isn’t easy to do. It’s im­por­tant to have enough ex­per­tise and coach­ing avail­able here in Canada, not just in places with palm trees.”

Elise Bol­ger be­gan train­ing with Tay­lor last Novem­ber.

“As one of the younger mem­bers on the squad I find the older ath­letes have so much knowl­edge about the sport,” she ex­plains. “It’s dif­fi­cult to tran­si­tion from ju­nior to U23, but be­ing on this squad of ex­pe­ri­enced ath­letes has re­ally helped my con­fi­dence as a triath­lete.”

Tay­lor com­peted in triathlons for 15 years, in­clud­ing his own stu­dent years at the Univer­sity of Toronto. While he com­pleted a masters in ex­er­cise phys­i­ol­ogy he also started a triathlon pro­gram there. He has been coach­ing full-time since 2005 and spent two years in a coach­ing in­tern­ship in Bri­tish Columbia be­fore re­turn­ing to Guelph in 2007 to work for Triathlon On­tario.

The Pro­ject’s squad is cur­rently at full ca­pac­ity with stu­dents and grads rang­ing in age from 26 to 28 years old, many from the Univer­sity of Guelph. Tay­lor strongly sup­ports the goal of podium wins, but in­sists that ed­u­ca­tion is the first pri­or­ity: “Fit­ness ebbs and flows, but your grades are for­ever.” His train­ing em­pha­sizes good habits and con­sis­tency with flex­i­bil­ity to balance school and work com­mit­ments.

Squad mem­ber Do­minika Jam­nicky moved to Guelph in 2009 to start her un­der­grad and train with Tay­lor. “He has in­stilled good train­ing habits with pur­pose,” says Jam­nicky. “Health and con­sis­tency are pil­lars that have de­vel­oped me into the young elite I am to­day. We have done that to­gether by virtue of learn­ing and mas­ter­ing a skill set one step at a time in a process driven man­ner.” She is very proud to be part of the Pro­ject. “Our pro­gram has a unique bond. Each ath­lete con­trib­utes in a pos­i­tive way and we have a hum­ble cul­ture of suc­cess,” she says.

Tay­lor would like to ex­pand the Pro­ject’s in­flu­ence to help as many kids as pos­si­ble fall in love with the sport. “We should be all-in and give it our best shot to help with their goals,” he says. This might in­clude fu­ture col­lab­o­ra­tion with more coaches, too. “I want to sup­port the tri com­mu­nity. You never know which kid will ben­e­fit from the trans­fer of knowl­edge and skills.”

Bol­ger def­i­nitely feels she has al­ready ben­e­fit­ted. “I ded­i­cate a lot of the growth I’ve had in such a short time to the train­ing en­vi­ron­ment that Craig and the ath­letes have cre­ated,” she says. “It is truly an in­cred­i­ble squad and I can’t wait to see what the fu­ture holds for us.”

He­len Pow­ers is a free­lance jour­nal­ist from Hamil­ton, Ont.

LEFT Guelph Triathlon Pro­ject suc­cess story Do­minika Jam­nicky tak­ing the win at Camtri Ber­muda ABOVE Jam­nicky ex­it­ing the wa­ter in Ber­muda

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