By Melissa Novacaska
Joanna Brown’s start to this year’s triathlon season has been about testing limits, strength and perseverance.
The Carp, Ont.-native, who’s participated in triathlon for 11 years began this season by spending weeks training in South Africa, as well as training with the British women’s triathlon team.
The result for the 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist was feeling “pretty fit” going into her first race of the season ahead of the first stop of the International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Triathlon Series in Abu Dhabi in March. Unfortunately for Brown, her early optimism for a good season ahead quickly soured.
The former Bytown Storm athlete crashed in the bike portion of the race and suffered what she described as a “quite significant” shoulder injury. Brown fractured her humerus (the upper arm bone between the shoulder and elbow), sidelining her from competition for six weeks that stretched into late April.
At her first race back in the first Olympic distance race of the season in Bermuda, the 26-year-old returned to claim a bronze medal. In July, Brown was the 7th ranked athlete in the World Triathlon Series (WTS). The Bermuda race has been her best finish of the season, and also earned her partway to selection for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“It was really hard after being injured to come back and do that race [in Bermuda], [but] coming [in] third was quite a big boost and it was a nice validation that the training was going quite well,” Brown told the Ottawa Sportspage.
Racing only a few weeks later in Yokohama, Japan in another ITU World Triathlon event, she finished in the 15th spot, which ultimately was below the placing she had hoped for. A few weeks later at an event in Leeds, U.K., she finished 16th.
Later in mid-June, Brown finished 4th with her mixed-relay team in the 2019 Accenture World Triathlon Mixed Relay Series in Nottingham, U.K., which awarded them Olympic points. The mixed-relay category will be a new event in the Olympics in 2020.
Brown said her team’s results indicates that Canada could do well in the new category.
She then headed to Montreal at the end of June for the 2019 Groupe Copley World Triathlon and placed 12th and then right after that headed to Hamburg, Germany, for the 2019 Hamburg Wasser World Triathlon, where she finished 13th before the 2019 Hamburg ITU Triathlon Mixed Relay World Championships, where she came 5th with her team.
She’s currently in St. Moritz, Switzerland for a chunk of time to train and breath in all she’s done so far in a short amount of time, before she’s back competing again, which will include the Olympics test event in Tokyo in August, another relay event and the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Lausanne, Switzerland at the end of August and beginning of September.
“It’s kind of been a bit of an adventure,” Brown said, also noting that from there, she’ll decide when to end her season, which will probably be at the end of September, when she’ll take some time off before starting to train for another season ahead.
Her current season’s been difficult, Brown says in hindsight, with it having been a struggle to catch-up on training during the competition season, after her injury.
“[It’s] just nonstop and I think I might have definitely taken on a bit too much racing this year, but it’s a learning (experience) for me to know going into next year, kind of how to prepare the best that I can to race as well as I can in Tokyo,” Brown said.
A self-identified training addict, Brown said she’s become a stronger and more robust athlete in recent years.
“I think just racing experience and having that patience and a bit more understanding of myself and my body and how it works and how I can kind of maximize training to benefit myself,” Brown said.
Though it is trying, Brown is preparing for the next leg of her season, in a sport that she says is always like a “puzzle” to her.
“It’s a really exciting time and I’m hoping to finish my Olympic qualification(s) by the end of this year, so [I] just have to kind of find a bit more consistency, keep racing and get some energy back,” Brown said.
Brown said she also hopes to finish off her season well in Lausanne.