Times Colonist

Chilly B.C. water may slow powerful Australian­s

Squad from Down Under in Victoria gearing up for world championsh­ips

- CLEVE DHEENSAW

Australia is often used as a reference point for Canada at the Summer Olympics and Commonweal­th Games. Unfortunat­ely, that has never been a flattering comparison from the Canadian perspectiv­e.

But maybe we have discovered the Kryptonite to neutralize these super Aussie athletes — B.C. water.

“We knew it was going to be cold but it was a true shock yesterday when we went into the water in Cordova Bay,” said Aussie Olympic triathlon head coach Bill Davoren.

The powerhouse Australian team has made Victoria its training base since last week in preparatio­n for the 2008 world championsh­ips, which take place Friday through Sunday in Vancouver. And the Aussies know English Bay will be just as cold as Cordova Bay after a cool B.C. spring.

“It will be an issue,” said Davoren.

Especially for competitor­s from warm-weather countries.

“The racers wear wet suits but you are talking about athletes who are very lean,” explained Davoren, who will also guide the Australian team at the 2008 Beijing Summer Games.

“Staying warm once they get out of the water [for the cycling and running portions of the event] is a concern. It is a problem. It’s going to be hard.”

Opposing conditions will be of concern later this summer at the Olympics.

“Humidity is the major issue in Beijing . . . so you are looking at two different problems between Vancouver and Beijing,” said Davoren, who is set to coach Australia in a third consecutiv­e Olympics.

The world championsh­ips represent the last opportunit­y to qualify for the 2008 Summer Olympics, but Australia has already qualified the full contingent of three men and three women and has selected its sixmember team for Beijing. So Vancouver is nothing more than a training jaunt for the Aussies. But these people never do anything in half measures. Australia leads all nations in triathlon with the most World Cup race wins (145 since 1991 to runner-up United States’ 52), world titles (29 to runner-up Britain’s 15) and world championsh­ip medals (44 to the runner up Americans’ 18).

“It’s in our blood. We’re a sporting nation,” said Erin Densham, who has qualified to compete for Australia at the Beijing Olympics.

But will they meet their match in English Bay?

“It was pretty cold but when you get numb, you don’t feel it,” chuckled Emma Moffatt, another Beijing-bound Aussie triathlete, following the training dip in Cordova Bay.

“But overall, the people and training sites have been great in Victoria [which is the national triathlon training centre for Canada]. I’m relaxed because I’ve been selected for Beijing. That’s the real aim this year. But the worlds are still important.”

And here’s a rejoinder to some of Victoria’s more militant cyclists who chronicall­y complain about car drivers in the city: The Aussies aren’t griping.

“In Australia on the roads, you feel abused while cycling, but certainly not here,” said Moffatt. “Everyone in Victoria is so friendly and drivers give you as much room as you need. It feels safe.”

The Aussies also feel safe in predicting the Canadian competitor­s will be inspired on home soil to perform well this weekend at the world championsh­ips in Vancouver.

“This is Simon’s chance to step up,” said Aussie coach Davoren, of the resurgent 2000 Sydney Olympic champion Simon Whitfield of Victoria.

“I’m picking him for a medal.”

One thing is for sure — Whitfield is definitely used to the water temperatur­e he will be facing Sunday in English Bay.

 ??  ?? Australian head coach Bill Davoren expects Canada to be tough on their home soil this weekend.
Australian head coach Bill Davoren expects Canada to be tough on their home soil this weekend.
 ??  ?? Twenty-three-year-old Erin Densham takes a breather between training sessions at Beaver Lake yesterday. The under-23 world champion hopes to earn a medal for Australia at this weekend’s world championsh­ips in Vancouver
Twenty-three-year-old Erin Densham takes a breather between training sessions at Beaver Lake yesterday. The under-23 world champion hopes to earn a medal for Australia at this weekend’s world championsh­ips in Vancouver

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