Canada’s Pioneers of Triathlon

You could say things changed for Canada the day Les McDonald formed Triathlon Canada, or the first World Triathlon Championships Canada attended in Avignon France in 1989.  And you would be right.  You could say the first Hawaii Ironman win on ABC Wide World of Sports by Canadian  Sylviane Puntous in 1983 was sport changing, and you would not be wrong. But prior to Simon Whitfield’s historic gold medal win in Sydney Australia in 2000, perhaps the most game changing day in Canadian Triathlon history was Sept 12, 1992.

Canada was hosting the World Triathlon Championships in Huntsville Ontario at the famous Deerhurst Resort that Sept day in 1992.  A very young Graham and Sue Fraser had the massive task of hosting the biggest event of their young careers.  With the biggest number of athletes to attend a triathlon up to that date, the Ontario race directors had massive pressure on their shoulders.  Great events in Avignon France (1989), Orlando USA (1990) and Gold Coast Australia (1991) had been hugely successfully and the World Triathlon were looking for Canada to ensure the fourth edition of the World Championships was continuing to improve their brand.   I was lucky enough to be the commentator for the day and had a birds eye view of the most completive World Triathlon Championship in the sport’s young history.

Athletes and officials awoke to a cool foggy morning at Deerhurst and the first tough decision to be made was a delay of the races.  Official nor athletes could see the first swim buoy only 150m off the shore of Ferry Lake. As the morning warmed up, officials started what turned out to be a nearly flawless early September Muskoka morning.  With the trees in full fall bloom, the best junior triathletes started the day.  Much different from today, in 1992, every athlete (juniors, age groupers and elites) were in a non-drafting Olympic Distance (1.5k – 40k – 10k) race.   Anyone who raced that day in 1992, or many times since, knows that the Huntsville area is renown for one tough hill after another.  The 40km bike course tested the legs of the 2500+ athletes before they raced the 10km run on cart path of the local golf course that was adjacent to Deerhurst Inn.  CBC television was at those World Championships and many who would one day become the best in the world lined up in one of the junior and elite races.

Before the weekend ever started however, Graham and Sue Fraser and Triathlon Canada created the prototype of parades, countries living in national blocks of housing and huge sports expos.  Two future Sydney Olympic medalist raced that day.  One in the women’s elite field (Michelle Jones) and other in the citizens race because he was too young and novice to race on the junior team (Simon Whitfield).

With the 30th anniversary of that historic weekend coming up soon, we thought we would write three short stories recounting the importance of the first World Triathlon Championships that Canada hosted and its impact on the sport in the country and around the world.   For the next two Mondays (Sept 5 and 12) we will continue on today’s story about the brilliance of the 1992 Muskoka World Triathlon Championships and the impact that continues even today.


Triathlon Canada Nation. We Can. We Will.
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