Triathlon Magazine Canada - - T1 -

LIS­TEN TO SHEILA O’KELLY tell the story, and the suc­cess of one of the long­est run­ning In­ter­na­tional Triathlon Union (ITU) events has al­most noth­ing to do with her. The event has its roots from a Kids of Steel race O’kelly put on in the 1980s, which would morph into the St. Al­bert Triathlon. That race would host the na­tional ju­nior cham­pi­onship in 1996. That year, O’kelly put a bid in to host the world cham­pi­onship in 2001 – which was a huge suc­cess. Since 1999 Ed­mon­ton has hosted a ma­jor in­ter­na­tional ITU event al­most ev­ery year, in­clud­ing another world cham­pi­onship in 2014. (The ITU asked O’kelly if she would or­ga­nize the 2014 worlds on 17 months no­tice af­ter San Diego pulled out from host­ing the event.)

The way O’kelly tells it, in her won­der­ful Ir­ish ac­cent (she moved to Ed­mon­ton from Ire­land in 1978 and, along with her hus­band and four kids, caught the triathlon bug), the suc­cess of the race is be­cause of all the other peo­ple, many of whom “have been with us since that first KOS race and when we hosted ju­nior na­tion­als.”

While that is no doubt 100 per cent true, I still con­tend that the suc­cess of the Ed­mon­ton event has a lot to do with the leader. It starts from the top, in my mind, and O’kelly leads by ex­am­ple, work­ing tire­lessly to en­sure that the Ed­mon­ton race re­mains amongst the best in the world. I’m not the only one who thinks that, ei­ther. In 2005 O’kelly was tasked by the ITU to co­or­di­nate the world cup se­ries. She trav­elled the world work­ing on world cup events and was an in­te­gral part in many world cham­pi­onship events over the years, too. It’s why Ed­mon­ton would have been the go-to race in 2014. (What is it about Canada and turn­ing things around quickly for a world cham­pi­onship? Danny Mccann man­aged a sim­i­lar feat in Mon­treal in 1999.) It’s also why Ed­mon­ton will be the first venue to host a world cham­pi­onship or Grand Fi­nal three times – the ITU is bring­ing the cham­pi­onship back to Al­berta in 2020.

O’kelly will tell you all this is be­cause of those great vol­un­teers, the in­cred­i­ble sup­port of the City of Ed­mon­ton, along with much ap­pre­ci­ated help from the provin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ments. She’ll tell you that Triathlon Canada has his­tor­i­cally been an in­te­gral partner in the process, too. Ba­si­cally, she’ll talk about ev­ery­one other than her­self. I don’t buy that for a sec­ond. All of those part­ners are crit­i­cal and a huge part of the in­cred­i­ble suc­cess of the ITU World Triathlon Ed­mon­ton. To me, though, it starts from the top with one Sheila O’kelly.

BE­LOW Randy Bois­son­nault, MP of Ed­mon­ton Cen­tre and Sheila O’kelly

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