SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. — When Victoria’s Alison Hooper broke through the finish-line banner of Tuesday’s triathlon at the Canada Games, she grabbed it and took it with her.
Hooper and Jeff Phillips, also of Victoria, penned their names in the Canada Games history books by capturing gold in triathlon’s debut on a dominant day for the B.C. team.
“It’s pretty exciting, I made history, which is kind of cool,” Hooper said.
Hooper, 16, a former swimmer competing in her first season of triathlon, finished in 58 minutes 15 seconds to lead a trio of B.C. women that finished in the top four. Sarah-Anne Brault of Winnipeg won silver in 58:34, while Kyla Coates of Victoria took the bronze in 58:57. Christine Ridenour of Cowichan Bay, B.C., finished fourth in 59:12.
“I didn’t know quite how it was going to go, especially with the 20-year-olds in this race, but I stuck with Sarah-Anne on the run and I felt really good and went for it,” Hooper said. “It was pretty exciting.”
Phillips, 20, won in 53:59, holding off Connor Hammond of London, Ont., who took the silver in 54:44. Cole Stewart of Langley, B.C., captured bronze in 54:52.
“I’m pretty happy, our B.C. team was really strong this year, all three of us were really strong swimmers,” Phillips said. “We were going for gold plus another podium spot and we got that, I’m feeling really happy about this.
“This was exactly what we wanted and I could be any more happy.”
Hooper was second out of the water behind Alberta’s Ellen Pennock after a 750-metre swim in the Summerside Harbour, and then was among a pack of six through the 20-kilometre bike that snaked around the downtown area. She and Brault battled it out through much of the five-kilometre run before Hooper took the lead for good.
Inspired by Simon Whitfield’s silver-medal performance at the Beijing Olympics, Hooper started training for triathlon less than a year ago, switching to the sport from swimming because her small stature.
“My size was starting to catch up with me,” said the five-foot-two Hooper. “My coach said you should try running, see how you feel, try this sport.
“I kind of took baby steps in October, starting training then, and really picked it up.”
Her goal was simply to make the Canada Games team. She did that, and went on to win the Canadian junior championships last month earning a berth for the world junior event next month in Australia.
“I love the sport,” Hooper said.
B.C. was the class of the field — no surprise considering most of the country’s top triathletes, including Olympians Whitfield and Lauren Groves, make Victoria their training base.
“I’m surrounded by amazing athletes to train with, you can pursue a really good triathlon career from that centre in Victoria,” Hooper said.