ELITE PROFILE/PRO KIT
It’s been a steep learning curve for up-and-coming homegrown triathlete, Desirae Ridenour. The 19-year-old from Cowichan Bay, B.C., has rapidly become a key player in Canada’s bid to rise to the top of the podium in the coming years.
Belief in her potential was firmly realized after a string of impressive results in 2017 and 2018, her final year competing as a junior.
As a youngster, Ridenour swam, ran and played both soccer and hockey. Inspired by her older sister – a very accomplished triathlete in her own right – Ridenour competed in her first triathlon when she was only four at an event in Qualicum, B.C.
“We had to swim the width of the pool, ride around in a parking lot and run 100 m to the finish line,” she recalls. “It was just so much fun.”
Showing tenacity and obvious natural ability, she pursued her swimming and running, and she learned more about riding a bike with efficiency and speed. With the 2014 B.C. Summer Games in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island taking place less than an hour from her hometown, she set her sights on that event. Racing a triathlon, duathlon, aquathlon and an F1 (super sprint) over two days, she took home three golds and a silver in a dominating display among B.C.’S premier youth multisport athletes. Her results provided a perfect platform for a serious tilt at the sport.
“The Summer Games were a great stepping stone in developing me as an athlete and giving me more experience competing in a games
setting,” she says. “I developed a lot of selfbelief from my results there.”
Over the next two years, Ridenour methodically went about improving her swim, bike and run skill set. Accolades flowed her way throughout 2017 after a stellar season of racing. She rattled off three straight gold-medal performances at major races around the globe, including a Junior European Cup race in Hungary and the CAMTRI Triathlon Junior American Championships in Magog, Que. Two weeks after her Quebec result, she tasted further success at the Canada Summer Games, held in Winnipeg, where she earned three gold medals against Canada’s best junior competitors.
In 2018, she was chosen to represent Canada at the Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast. As part of the Canadian mixed relay team – a female-male-female-male format in which each racer swims 250 m, cycles 7 km and runs 1.5 km before tagging off to the next teammate – the then 18-year-old Ridenour helped Team Canada place fourth in a deep field. An impressive result, but finishing just off the podium proved a difficult pill to swallow.
“There were a few little mistakes that cost us in the relay and, if we can correct those little things in the future, we can definitely be on the podium in Tokyo in 2020, where the triathlon mixed relay makes its Olympic debut,” Ridenour says. “The Gold Coast was all about next time – specifically Tokyo. It was a good learning experience, and there was a lot to be encouraged by.”
Should her ambitions unfold as planned in Tokyo, it would mean Canada’s first Olympic gold medal in triathlon since Simon Whitfield’s iconic win in Sydney in 2000, when triathlon made its Summer Games debut. Canada’s last Olympic medal in triathlon was Whitfield’s silver in Beijing eight years after Sydney.
Ridenour is now coached by Jono Hall, the head coach of Triathlon Canada.
“I have been with him for three years now,” explains Ridenour, “and the quality and style of his coaching have worked very well in developing me as a better athlete both physically and mentally.”
Hall echoes Ridenour’s sentiments about the team’s goal for Tokyo 2020.
“Our goal is to win the mixed relay there,” Hall says. “It’s ambitious, but the relay is a priority for us, and we have athletes who are capable of doing that and putting it together on the day.”
In terms of her training, Ridenour explains that every high-volume week is different depending on the focus for that particular week.
“We usually swim six times, bike five times, run six times and do strength workouts three times a week,” she says.
In the winter months, the team is based out of Scottsdale, Ariz.
Back in Victoria – home base of Triathlon Canada – the team trains at the Commonwealth Pool, they ride the undulating roads on and around the Saanich Peninsula, while runs are often held on local trails around picturesque lakes.
“It’s ideal,” says Ridenour, appreciative of the fact that many of the athletes on the squad have to travel far from home to be there, while the Victoria team base is only a short drive from her hometown.
Despite her successes competing in junior races, Ridenour considers her best result a 23rd place finish at the WTS event held in Abu Dhabi in 2018, where she competed in the open elite category for the first time against some of the best short-course female triathletes in the world. The result gave her an accurate snapshot of where she currently stands and what still needs to be accomplished in order to compete at the highest levels of the sport. Her 2019 aspirations are bold but attainable. “I plan to increase my Olympic ranking, achieve a few top 10s in World Cups and increase our Olympic team relay ranking as well,” she says.
With the new year underway, her sights are increasingly focused on the lure of an Olympic spot in Tokyo 2020.
“That is, without doubt, a big career goal of mine,” she readily admits, “and I’ll do all I can to get to the start line.”
Kerry Hale is triathlete and freelance journalist from Comox Valley, B.C.
Desirae Ridenour racing on the Gold Coast at the 2018 Commonwealth Games