Triathlon Magazine Canada
HOW’S THIS FOR a far-from-ideal ramp up to your first Olympics? At the end of May, roughly two weeks out from the triathlon event in Tokyo, Joanna Brown wasn’t feeling like she was ready to compete with the world’s best; she was happy just to be healthy enough to get on a plane.
“It is safe to say that absolutely nothing has gone to plan on this trip, but I am now out of hospital, and I finally have a flight booked home tonight,” she wrote on Facebook as she was packing to leave Lisbon, Portugal. “Nothing has gone to plan” is certainly an understatement.
As she was warming up for the World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) Yokohama, Brown broke her nose when an athlete inadvertently hit her while doing some practice dives. Canada didn’t have any medical support at the event, but the doctor with the British team checked her out and figured she would be able to get through the race. She did, finishing 13th. She then travelled to Lisbon, where she planned to compete for Canada at the World Triathlon Mixed Team Relay Olympic Qualification race (p.12). In Portugal, she ended up in hospital with back pain that was eventually diagnosed as a kidney infection. Put on antibiotics, she was set to fly back to the U.S., where she’s been training, but had a positive COVID antigen test that meant she couldn’t get on the plane. That became a moot point as she was readmitted to hospital with an “atypical bacterial infection” in her kidneys. Even though the COVID test turned out to be a false positive, Brown spent a number of days in hospital in isolation before a more detailed test showed she didn’t, in fact, have COVID. (Because she’s been training in Arizona, she was able to get fully vaccinated earlier this year.)
So, once she’s finally able to start heading home? Her credit card is declined by TAP Airlines. All of this was enough for Brown’s close friend Chelsea Burns, who started a GoFund.me page to raise enough money to pay for Brown’s flight home. In less than two hours US$1,390 was raised and donations were shut down. One of the first people to donate? World champion Flora Duffy.
“We literally got what we were looking for in two hours – we got her travel paid for,” Burns said. “All we wanted was to pay for that. The support was unreal – many people have reached out asking how they can help.”
Due to the COVID travel restrictions, Brown likely won’t make it back to Canada before she has to head back to Japan to compete in the Olympics. The good news is that she’s healthy and training hard to finally achieve the dream she’s pursued since competing in her first triathlon 15 years ago and fulfilling the promise she showed in 2010, when she took bronze at the world championships as a junior. Here’s hoping that during the next trip to Japan, everything goes “according to plan.”