A breakthrough result in her comeback from injuries has given triathlete Paula Findlay another chance to race in her hometown.
The 25-year-old from Edmonton was a late addition to the Canadian team for the World Triathlon Grand Final in that city. Triathlon Canada announced Monday that Findlay will be added to the start list for the elite women's race Aug. 30.
Once ranked No. 1 in the world in women's triathlon, Findlay has faced an assortment of injuries dating back to 2011 when she pulled out of a World Cup race in Edmonton.
She finally raced pain-free and finished second at the Patco Premium Cup in Kelowna, B.C., on Sunday to gain consideration for the final.
"I've watched the World Cup race in Edmonton twice from the sidelines," Findlay said in a statement released by Triathlon Canada.
"It is hard to watch because I have never had that experience to race at home so it means a lot to me, and will be special for sure. I have a family connection to the event with my mom who has been so involved in the planning of this race. I've seen how much work it takes to put on an event like this.
"Personally, I am starting a new chapter of my career now and to do that in my hometown will be cool."
The TransCanada Corp. World Triathlon Grand Final is the last event in an eight-race series that determines the year's men's and women's world triathlon champions. The competition includes world junior, under-23 and paratriathlon champions as well.
Findlay joins Victoria's Kirsten Sweetland, a silver medallist at this month's Commonwealth Games, and Sarah-Anne Brault of Quebec City in the elite women's field. Kyle Jones of Oakville, Ont., and Andrew Yorke of Caledon, Ont., race the elite men's event Aug. 31.
Findlay's star shone bright prior to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. She won six world championship series races over 2010 and 2011, including one on London's Olympic course.
But a hip injury suffered while preparing for a World Cup in Edmonton in July 2011 was the beginning of a downward spiral. She split with her coach the following spring.
'Best three months of my life'
With only six weeks of quality training prior to the Olympics, Findlay crossed the finish line last in London and sobbed out an apology to Canada. Olympic gold and silver medallist Simon Whitfield criticized her support team the following day for their handling of Findlay's situation.
It's been a series of health issues for Findlay since then which limited her races. The latest was a stress fracture in her pelvis diagnosed in March.
Unable to run until recently, most of her training has been on the bike and in the pool. Findlay also has another new coach in Siri Lindley after parting ways with Joel Filiol in May.
"It is not ideal to go into a world championships without a big season of races under your belt, but I got a new coach in June and it has been the best three months of my life following three very difficult years," Findlay said.
"This spring I was really quite down. I lost hope and even considered giving up. But I am in such a good place right now mentally and physically.
"And to be able to go back now and race in Edmonton is an extra spark of motivation for me."
'Another small step in her journey'
Triathlon Canada high-performance director Libby Burrell says Findlay deserves the chance to race in a "quality field without the weight of expectations on her shoulders."
"Paula has a long road back to the top," Burrell continued. "She took a big step forward last weekend in Kelowna by finishing healthy and happy.
"This will be another small step in her journey to returning to being an elite athlete. Every decision we make regarding her now is with her long term health as our primary focus."
Sweetland is a former world junior champion who also ran a gauntlet of injuries in her career. The 25-year-old won bronze in a World Triathlon Series race in Hamburg, Germany, this summer in addition to her Commonwealth silver in Glasgow, Scotland.
"I have always looked up to Kirsten," Findlay said. "She's, obviously, been through a rough patch and similar journey to me and made her way back to the top.
"Kirsten has shown it is possible. It is not easy, but it is possible."