Former World Number one Chris Hill takes us to Beijing through the athletes eyes
Making Canadas Beijing Olympic team was a cinch for Lauren Groves, the hard part has come in preparing for the race.
Lauren Groves exudes Olympic excitement. This can have its pros and cons for an athletes preparation into the biggest race on the triathlon calendar. If you put in enough it can be the difference between gold and silver. If you put in too much you may not even get to the start.
Having secured her Olympic spot with a top-16 at last years BG World Championships in Hamburg (she placed 14th), Groves went about conditioning for a race that was a long time off. She had plenty of time to kill, perhaps too much time.
Making Canadas pre-qualifying standard in Hamburg was pretty emotional for me, said Groves. I have invested so much into chasing this dream and my family and friends had been there to support me through everything, the good and the bad.
When we got to California (in January) I think we got a little carried away with the run training and I got a little carried away with the beautiful, but hilly trails in the area. What was wrong was basically an inflammation of a bursa or the fat pad in my knee.
The subsequent knee injury left Groves, 26, on the sideline for two months while she sought medical attention. After an extensive search Groves found the right therapist and gradually the knee responded, but she was not without worry.
When you have an injury that lasts that long you start to wonder when you will ever race again, she said. It was likely caused by the hills, but it turns out it may be related to my bike crash in Ishigaki in 2007, as the scar tissue build-up was excessive.
Its no wonder Groves has multiple theories for the cause of her knee injury. She studied forensic psychology (which specializes in the collection of evidence for courts) at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. The university was also the place she started triathlon.
I met Adam, my longtime partner in class, she said. He is responsible for getting me started in triathlon, so I guess I owe a huge part of my success to my psychology classes.
Adam is also the reason she races with a sticker of a poodle on her aerobars. Groves loves dogs, especially poodles (she has an Animal of the Week section on her website, most of which are dogs). But Adam dislikes them.
He actually really hates poodles, Groves said of Adam. But he has said I can get a poodle when I podium at a world cup. Well, in 2006 when I got some good results and placed 4th at a world cup, he got worried and tried to change my poodle criteria. Now I have to win a world cup if I want that dog.
Groves second place at the Pan American Championships in Mazatlan, Mexico during April was far from a dog day for her. Her silver medal proved her knee problem was no problem at all. The Groves support network could turn off the alarm bells.
After Mazatlan she travelled to world cups in Tongyeong, South Korea and Richards Bay, South Africa, placing 13th in each event. These races renewed Groves confidence because they came off the back of a limited run build up.
I was actually thrilled after my first two races this year, all things considered, she said. Just being back in the mix was more than I could have asked for at these races. Plus, I had literally run about 30 minutes before the first race. I had front-pack swims in both races and solid efforts on the bike. I even managed to run a low 36-minute 10km in South Africa. So all in all, a good start to the year.
From there she headed for her home country worlds in Vancouver. The race was problematic for the slight Groves who started shivering and never recovered her lost positioning on the freezing Canadian day. She placed 33rd.
My race at worlds this year was definitely disappointing, especially because it was my hometown, an Olympic year, and a chance to race in front of friends and family, she said. I kept telling myself that I am just fine in the cold but when the water is 11 degrees, I didnt even feel like I was swimming.
Despite the conditions Groves ran well. Her 37:39 split matched Japanese athlete Juri Ide who rode in a better bike pack and placed 11th overall. Groves took this as a positive and does not seem too miffed about the result. Now, it is just a matter of putting it all together in more ideal conditions, she said, like Beijing.
This comment reveals that Lauren Groves, after overcoming a troublesome knee injury, has her Olympic groove back. And having been selected first for Canada she is again excited about the prospect of being the first Canadian home in Beijing.
Former World Number one Chris Hill brings his unique elite athlete perspective in weekly Olympic columns to ITUs website, triathlon.org. He competed on the ITU World Cup circuit, winning three titles and ten medals in total. He was crowned the overall World Cup series champion in 2001. That same year he was silver medalist at the ITU World Championships in Edmonton, Canada. Watch for Chris Hills column, Olympic Odyssey every week on triathlon.org.