Triathlete wins age division at worlds; Scott Takala tops in 20-24 group;
As Scott Takala stood at the starting line for his first world championship triathlon, the cold and dreary weather - and the awaiting plunge in the frigid waters near Stanley Park in Vancouver's west end - was so overwhelming, he forgot he was nervous. His thoughts drifted back to his training sessions, all those swims in Sydenham Lake and its relatively cold water. Then he dove in. More than an hour later, he crossed the finish line as a world champion.After trailing for most of the race the 22-year-old finished in first place in the 20-24-year-old age group in the sprint championship Saturday. "It will be something else," the Trent University student said during a telephone interview from Vancouver as he waited to receive his medal at the awards ceremony last night.The race time temperature of the water was a frosty 11.8 C, below the 16-18 C Takala had gotten used to in Sydenham Lake. The Harrowsmith racer borrowed a friend's dock to use as the starting point for his training sessions, the only competitors being the ones in his head. Takala said he knew the water in Vancouver wasn't going to be warm, so he wanted to get his body ready to function in conditions where all it wants to do is conserve energy. Jumping into the water Saturday, he said, was a big shock. "I thought Sydenham Lake was cold, but that was just frigid."
Takala fell behind the leaders as he got caught up in the flailing arms and kicking legs of swimmers fighting to get to the front of the pack. He stuck to the front third of the 15-competitor field and emerged from the 750-metre swim segment in third place, 29 seconds behind two competitors from New Zealand, Ian Clark and Clay Gulliver. Then the true impact of the cold water hit Takala as he entered the transition area for the cycling leg of the race. "Putting shoes on was a huge task because you can't feel your feet," he said. "It was freezing cold." He said it also was difficult to get helmets clipped on with shivering hands. By the time he got on his bike, Takala had fallen more than a minute behind the leader, Clark. "I had a lot of work to do on the bike," Takala said. "That's where I made up most of my time." By the end of the first seven-kilometre lap of the park, Takala had moved into second place, passing Gulliver, but still 55 seconds behind Clark. Takala sliced more time off the lead in the second lap, bringing the margin to 23 seconds. On lap number three, Takala took a microscopic two-second lead as they entered the transition when, again, the effect of the cold struck. Unclipping bike helmets became more difficult than putting them on and changing shoes was difficult still. Takala said some of the competitors weren't able to remove their helmets and ended up running with them still strapped to their heads. Takala ran out of the transition area in second place, 23 seconds behind Clark.
The run, Takala said, was better. "The faster you're moving," he said, "the warmer you're going to get." Eventually he started to feel his feet again and his muscles and joints warmed up. After the first three kilometres of the run, Takala was two seconds behind Clark and on the verge of passing him. Shortly after the three-kilometre marker, Takala said, he passed the New Zealander and slowly pulled away over the last 2.1 kilometres of the race. It was only in the last 800 metres of the race that Takala knew he had won, when he looked over his shoulder to see Clark falling farther behind. Takala won by almost a minute and a half . "It was probably one of the hardest races I've ever done," Takala said.Takala said he hopes next year to qualify for the world championships and compete on an Olympic-length course. Eventually, he said, he wants to compete on the World Cup circuit and make it to the Olympic Games.
Kingston Whig-Standard (ON)
Byline: BY JORDAN PRESS WHIG-STANDARD STAFF WRITER
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