Greatest pressure Paula Findlay feeling likely from herself
Canadian triathlon phenom Paula Findlay's greatest asset is her biggest detriment right now.
As her coach Patrick Kelly said earlier this season, she's "hard wired to win," an incredibly driven athlete who's unwilling to accept anything less than her best and someone who puts huge pressure on herself.
She needs to back off on that right now in the wake of dropping out from Sunday's World Championship Series Grand Final in Beijing.
Not only does she need to take a break, she needs to give herself a break. Not an easy thing for such a young and intense athlete.
When the 22-year-old stormed the circuit with wins in five of her first six World Championship Series races, Findlay looked like an unstoppable force. But injury has undermined her form and understandably her confidence.
Her father Max told Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun in the wake of Sunday's race: “She is more than devastated. It’s another tough lesson in a very tumultuous year for Paula. She needs to get home, get away and allow herself time to recover. She’s emotionally and physically exhausted. She’s really sorry to let her city, country, fans and followers down. She needs her mom and her friends right now. She is so sad she wants to be invisible.”
But Findlay needs to realize she didn't let anybody down. She felt similarily bad – probably even worse – when she had to pull out of her hometown race because of injury earlier this season.
That's part of racing at that elite level – these athletes are always pushing themselves to the brink of injury.
Maybe this works to Findlay's advantage in the end. For one thing, she will get more rest. But it also shows people that she's human, that she's not a shoo-in for London because of her incredible streak. Maybe, that takes some pressure off.
There's no doubt the Olympic expectations were already beginning to wear on her. At a teleconference held by Triathlon Canada before the pre-Olympic London race in August, it was put to Findlay that she'll be one of the few Canadian athletes who will be a gold medal favourite next summer and she was asked if she was ready to embrace the pressure.
"It is a lot of pressure and I don't like thinking about it or reading about it," said Findlay, whose tremulous voice matched her words. "Last year before the London race, I wasn't even thinking I could make the Olympic team and now I'm being considered a medal hopeful. It is a lot of pressure but it's so far ahead and so much can happen between now and then."
As we've seen, that's true. The most valuable thing a break might give Finlay is some perspective. Given her talent and drive, she'll likely be anything but invisible come London.
(Photo: Delly Carr ITU)