Some of Canada's best triathletes are gathered in Ottawa this weekend for the Ottawa International Triathlon.

The group of elite competitors also includes some of Canada's youngest triathletes.

To accommodate these up-and-coming athletes among the adults trying to qualify for next year's Commonwealth Games in Australia, the triathlon added several events geared towards kids aged 6-15.

Saturday's youth triathlon featured 14 and 15-year-olds with varying levels of experience. 

off to the races

Competitors in the women's youth triathlon at the Ottawa International Triathlon dive into Dows Lake on Saturday June 17, 2017. (David Corrigan/CBC)

Liv Horn, who is just finishing up Grade 9 at Woodroffe High School, has been training four times a week ahead of the race. 

With less than an hour to go before her race, Horn is ready to go. 

"I'm just completely thrilled about hopping in the water and fighting my way to the front," she says.

Horn knows it will be a fight—though mostly against herself.

"It gets really tough during the last bit of a run during the race. It can be heartbreaking sometimes to be one of the last racers to cross the finish line," says Horn. "But this is a learning experience. Just learn from it and move on. And use what you've learned for the future."

Will Watson, 13, is Horn's teammate at the Bytown Storm Triathlon Club. In addition to sharing a training schedule, he shares Horn's feelings when it comes to the competition.

"It's not all about winning. And it's not all about placing. It's about doing it," Watson says. "I think that's a great perk of triathlon: There's not a ton of stress, because the whole point is to get out and finish... And finish with pride, finish strong."

liv horn

14-year-old Liv Horn races out of the water to get her bicycle for the second leg of the triathlon. (David Corrigan/CBC)

'Process over performance'

For Horn and Watson's coach Greg Kealey, that attitude is more important than winning medals or shaving a few seconds off a personal best.

"Our focus in our club is process over performance. So we really reward people who change habits or behaviours in training, as opposed to how fast they do it," says Kealey.

"It's just reinforcing the message that we value doing things properly over doing things fast."

In the midst of a hectic day, race director Sharon Donnelly takes a moment to enjoy the electric atmosphere that comes with the kids' races.

jarod medd

Jarod Medd competes in the men's youth triathlon at the Ottawa International Triathlon on June 17, 2017. (David Corrigan/CBC)

Donnelly herself was an world-class triathlete, competing in the first-ever Olympic triathlon in 2000.

She's seen the sport come a long way since then, especially in the way that younger athletes are making it their focus sport.

"Back in my time, we all were from swimming, or running. Now it's a chosen sport for the young kids," says Donnelly.

"And I think as a parent—because I have a nine and an 11-year-old—it's really neat because it's a mix of all three."

As a former elite athlete, Donnelly has some advice for parents with children who are considering taking the next step in competitive sport.

"If they really love it, go for it. But make sure they're well-rounded. Don't choose a program too quickly. But the most important thing is that you support them."