Matt Vierula will get his first shot at a world championships event when he heads to New Zealand for the U23 worlds Oct. 20-22. File photo
By Ian Ewing
It’s been a different path for each of them, but current or former Bytown Storm team members Samantha Klus, Matt Vierula and Joanna Brown have each punched a ticket for the same place – Auckland, New Zealand, where they’ll compete in the Oct. 20-22 triathlon world championships’ junior and under-23 categories.
For Vierula, it’s been a long wait to compete at the worlds. The 22-year-old was finally able to train full-time after finishing his degree at the University of Ottawa in the spring. The ability to devote more hours to training – up to 30 hours per week – has allowed the human kinetics grad to realize performance gains that have been hinted at for years.
“It’ll be pretty exciting,” grins Vierula, a multiple-time national medalist who has yet to compete on as big a stage as New Zealand.
Vierula is looking for a top-20 finish in a field of roughly 70 U23 men, including a handful of Olympians who are fresh from competing in London.
“It’s a pretty stacked field of very talented athletes,” he adds.
Klus, for her part, is attending with a mind towards gaining experience. The 17-year-old is only in her second year of eligibility in the junior category, and to claim the third Canadian slot next to a pair of girls two years older is not common at all, affirms Storm coach Greg Kealey.
The Bell High School senior juggles a busy training schedule of around 20 hours per week on top of her classes. And after attending the North American junior championships in Mexico earlier in the summer, where she finished 13th out of 16 athletes, Klus says she suddenly feels like she belongs at this level.
“(Mexico) was a great learning experience,” she explains, adding that competing against athletes of that calibre has made her want to train even harder.
Vierula echoes that sentiment when talking about the not-yet-one-year-old uOttawa/GO Kingfish Regional Training Centre, which is funded in part by Own The Podium.
“A few of the top swimmers [at Ottawa U] really kicked my butt in the pool, and it gives me good motivation to keep pushing it,” Vierula highlights. “One of the great things about the RTC is that it fosters that environment of high-performance, and with the two sports going side-by-side, you have excellence on both sides. It’s great to see.”
Klus is considering following in the footsteps of teammate Vierula in attending the University of Ottawa for human kinetics, partly for the availability of top-notch training facilities and partners at the UOGO-RTC, she notes.
That wasn’t an option available to Brown before she left for the University of Guelph last year. After an injury-cursed 2011 season, it could be called a win for the 2010 world junior bronze medalist to simply be healthy again and competing.
But it’s been a standout season by any standard as she earned a ticket to the worlds in her first year in the U23 category on the strength of numerous top results, including a third-place showing at a Sept. 17 Pan Am Cup race in Buffalo.
“It has been a really good year,” Brown said in a Triathlon Canada news release. “Training has been upbeat and smooth. I have been learning a lot, but I feel like I’m getting stronger every race so I’m really looking forward to World Championships.”
Ottawa triathlon roots
Both Vierula and Klus got their start running in the local Somersault series of triathlons around age 12 before getting a taste of the competitive side of the sport. For Klus, it started as a way to cross-train for soccer. She doubts her coach would have predicted her giving up soccer entirely for triathlons.
“I don’t even remember how I did – probably dead last or something – but I loved it,” she laughs. She’s been with the Bytown Storm for five years now.
Vierula started in order to keep himself busy in the summer, and only began taking triathlon seriously after competing at provincials when he was 16 and getting bitten by the competition bug. He too joined the Storm, and both athletes have been under the wing of coach Kealey ever since.
For Kealey, it’s gratifying to see his athletes succeed – “amazingly so.” But it’s equally enjoyable bringing up the younger athletes, too, he claims. From teaching them how to ride a bike properly to seeing their times running around a track plummet, he’s proud of his Storm team and of the Ottawa triathlon scene in general.
Vierula couldn’t agree more.
“The biggest thing is that I receive a lot of local support,” he says of living and training here, far from most of the big races. “I’ve got a great network of support in Ottawa.”