Triathlon course is truly breathtaking
SYDNEY - The potential early star of these Olympic
Games is beautiful and nicely-contoured with a hint of
The race course for the Olympic triathlon, which winds
its way out of the shadow of the striking Sydney Opera
House and the Harbour Bridge, is one of the most
spectacular venues in Olympic history.
"It's just gorgeous," said Ottawa's Sharon Donnelly,
who, along with her teammates, took another practice
swim in the chilly, potentially shark-infested waters
of Farm Cove.
"I think a lot of people will be watching just because
of the beauty of it."
This is triathlon's first appearance in the Games and
those involved with the sport realize it is important
to produce a solid debut. How a sport plays on
television goes a long way towards determining its
value in the Olympic pecking order.
Having such a visually-stunning venue won't hurt.
"This puts us on the map," said Canadian head coach
Barrie Shepley. "One picture everybody is going to
remember from these Games will be the Opera House.
We've had more visibility in the last 120 days than
we've had in the last 20 years."
The women's event kicks off the first full day of
Games with the women diving into the Farm Cove waters
Saturday morning. The men compete Sunday morning.
The water is chilly (just 16 degrees) and is being
patrolled by divers, equipped with electromagnetic
"pods" to ward off sharks which have been known to
stalk the harbour.
While downplaying the threat, Shepley said it is
important no safeguards are overlooked.
He took a team of juniors to Perth, Australia a few
years ago and a shark "like the one in Jaws" bit the
end off a surfboard and then cruised the shorline for
"(A shark attack) is not unrealistic, but you've got a
better chance of winning the Australian lottery than
getting attacked by a shark," he said.
"I hadn't thought about it, but then there was a point
when I was out there alone and I admit I thought about
it for second," said Simon Whitfield of Kingston, Ont.
"But then I thought why would they pick me? I'm not
the best-looking guy out there."
There are also jellyfish to contend with and the
"I'm Canadian," said the 25-year-old Whitfield,
Canada's lone competitor in the men's event. He's
ranked 13th in the world going into the event."I hope
it freezes over and they ask us to skate on it, then
I'll be fine."
After their 1,500-metre swim, the competitors go
through the transition zone just at the base of the
steps of the Opera House and then hit the streets of
Sydney for a 40-km bike and then a 10-km run.
Canada's Carol Montgomery, 33, of North Vancouver,
B.C., ranked 11th in the world, and the 33-year-old
Donnelly, ranked 14th, will be trying to keep pace
with the powerful Australian team led by top-ranked
Michellie Jones and Loretta Harrop, second in the
world. Isabelle Turcotte-Baird of Quebec City, Que.,
is also in the field.
Some Australian media is speculating there could be a
sweep by the home side.
"It's not going to happen," said Shepley. "We're not
afraid of them. We were reading that this morning on
the way over here and (Montgomery) laughed.
"You ask any of them who they're fearing and they'll
say Carol Montomery."
She was second at the world championships and has a
couple of World Cup wins under her belt this year so a
trip to the podium is a strong possibility.
For Canadians, that would be an even better sight than
the sun glinting off the Opera House and the choppy
waters of Farm Cove.