Bytown Storm triathlete Tristan Woodfine (#14) placed 22nd out of 68 competitors in the world junior triathlon championships this past weekend in Beijing. File photo
By Dan Plouffe
For Greg Kealey, the owner and founder of the Bytown Storm triathlon club, the tremendous success his athletes have achieved is strangely a double-edged sword.
From one perspective, seeing Joanna Brown and Tristan Woodfine place amongst the very best on the planet at last weekend’s world junior championships in Beijing is exactly what the club set out to do on the high-performance side.
But there are also seems to be a bit of a drawback, Kealey observes.
“Sometimes I think outside of the club, it's more a negative because of the mystique around the sport,” Kealey explains. “When the publicity is just around the kids doing well, trying to grow the grassroots of the club is hard because they may think, 'Oh, we have to be at a certain level before we approach that club.'
“As far as growth in numbers and making the club more popular amongst the general population, it doesn't translate. It's almost the opposite because people are intimidated by the level these kids are at.”
It’s a perception that’s unfounded, notes Kealey, who promotes individual goal setting and has no problem with athletes of his who pursue other sports at the same time. With the “Storm Troopers” group for young newcomers to triathlon, beginner “Try a Tri” competitions, and the opportunity for parents to join their kids for a workout, it’s the club’s goal to appeal to all ages and abilities.
But there’s no doubt that stars like Brown and Woodfine are a source of inspiration for the Storm’s teenage triathletes who aspire to reach the same type of international and Olympic heights.
“Within the club, it means a lot. We're proud of them,” says Kealey, who traveled to Beijing as a Team Canada coach. “Any of the age-group athletes look at Tristan and Joanna, and it's not reading about someone in Toronto who did it, it's someone that you've trained with for years, so it makes it more attainable for them.
“It really does drive them and push them a little more.”