Kids of Steel start early

Triathlon for kids is about learning a lifestyle that will allow a person to compete but more importantly afford them a path to develop a healthy lifestyle, says a long-time triathlete.

Danny Henry instructs a group of kids who still need help in refining their swimming technique.

Danny Henry instructs a group of kids who still need help in refining their swimming technique.

Triathlon for kids is about learning a lifestyle that will allow a person to compete but more importantly afford them a path to develop a healthy lifestyle, says a long-time triathlete.

Each Sunday the Michener Centre swimming pool comes alive with the Kids of Steel as young as four learning strokes on their way to improving swimming techniques in preparation for a summer of triathlon events in Red Deer and area.

As many as 35 kids are learning and refining techniques to enable them to participate in not only triathlons but as a preparation for a healthy lifestyle, says Kids race co-ordinator Val Jensen.

“The biggest thing with our race and the preparation is creating a healthy lifestyle,” Jensen said.

“We’re not trying to create great competitors or Simon Whitfields (Canadian Olympic gold medal winner).

“We want these kids to get out and exercise as a lifestyle.

“You can get out with your kids and bicycle and run as well as swim,” she added.

A triathlete for the last 18 years Jensen said Sunday it’s a big year for the meet as it marks its 10th anniversary.

The race on June 26 attracts about 250 kids aged 5-15 from all over the province and is divided into five age categories.

The adult competition has a limit of 225.

Tanis Wiancko, 11, who is starting her third year, said she enjoys swimming.

“I like to go hard and fast in swimming and I have a triathlon bike for biking,” said the Grade 5 student.

She also plans to keep at it for many years.

Tanis already swims three times a week including two session of snychronized swimming.

The Marlin Swim Club season starts soon so she’ll be enjoying that too, she said.

Seven-year-old Coleman McKee said his sister Madison got him interested in triathlon about three years ago.

“She was doing it so I wanted to do it too,” said Coleman who is in Grade 2.

Coleman likes the biking aspect of the sport and is acquiring a taste for swimming.

Madison McKee, 11, said her mother Carmen got her involved.

She also started at about age four and enjoys swimming the most.

Two years ago she got to meet Whitfield through an essay competition.

“He told us that he used to get really nervous when he first started and tried to forget about all the people and just tried his best.

“He said just to go out and have fun,” Madison said.

Danny Henry, 15, is volunteering his second year as a coach for the triathletes.

A competitor himself Danny said his dad Stu encouraged him to get involved in the sport four years ago.

The Grade 9 student said his dad had to explain to him what was involved.

“I went to my first one near Calgary and won and asked when can I do another one,” he laughed.

“I just loved it.”

Danny trained hard for the disciplines and last year won the Alberta points series for his age group.

“I like working with kids. It’s fun teaching them.

“I want to be a teacher one day and this is good experience,” he said.

Hayley Goring, 19, is the coaching co-ordinator for the swimming who lines up the volunteers for not only the kids but the adults who also take lessons following the kids at Michener.

A swimming instructor Hayley said the most important aspect she can teach with swimming is stroke technique.

“Those swimming by themselves are getting the endurance but not the stroke improvement they can pick up with the classes.”

She also said because triathletes compete as individuals they can associate with other kids in the classes.

A second-year Red Deer College student Hayley said kids who may want to join still are encouraged to come out for the 11 a.m. drop-in Sunday sessions.

“They really need to train for the Woody’s triathlon but just getting the training can help them” Hayley said.

The Kids of Steel bike courses range from 1.5 km to 10 km in length, while swimmers cover from 50 metres to 500 metres and the runners 500 metres to four km.

jwilson@bprda.wpengine.com