Triathlon is a sport that can sometimes see lesser lights seemingly come out of nowhere to win big on race day.
Simon Whitfield did just that when he made his breakthrough by winning gold at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Fellow Canadians Kyle Jones and Lauren Campbell hope their shining moment comes at this weekend's world championships in New Zealand.
"I'm looking to make sure I'm at the front pretty much the whole day and then see what I can do in the run," Jones said. "Hopefully I can surprise a few people, surprise myself and have a great result."
Jones, from Oakville, Ont., and Campbell, from Vancouver, will lead Canadian hopes at the Barfoot & Thompson ITU World Triathlon Grand Final Auckland.
Jones has long been tabbed as the heir apparent to Whitfield, who crashed his bike at the Olympics last summer and is skipping this event. Jones, the world No. 27, had some decent results ahead of the London Games but settled for a 25th-place finish.
"My coach quickly reminded me that all was not lost, the progress we made was still there and to just kind of reap the rewards later on as opposed to not having it on that day," Jones said Thursday from Auckland.
Andrew Yorke of Caledon East, Ont., is the only other Canadian entry in the men's race. He's much lower down in the rankings at No. 88 and will be competing in his first elite race at this competition.
Campbell, currently ranked No. 54 in the world, is the lone Canadian competitor in the women's elite race.
Former world No. 1 Paula Findlay has cut her season short due to iron deficiency anemia. She had hoped to make up for a crushing result in London with a strong showing in Auckland before blood work indicated low levels of iron.
It was the latest disappointment in a very challenging season for the Edmonton triathlete. Findlay nursed a nagging hip injury for months before finishing last in the Olympic women's race in her season debut.
Jones, meanwhile, was unhappy with his performance in the water at the Games, calling it his worst swim of the year. He ramped up his swimming sessions while training in Florida over the last few weeks and said he feels "surprisingly fresh" for the world championships.
"I think not getting the performance that I wanted at the Games has motivated my second half of the season," Jones said. "So hopefully I end the season on a good note and put all the work to use."
Triathlon Canada high performance director Libby Burrell said Jones has tremendous potential.
"I think he's got a lot more in the bank that's going to come out," she said. "Again it's going to be how well the athletes cope on the bike course and then running off that hard bike."
Jones and Campbell were victorious at the Edmonton ITU Triathlon World Cup last July. Campbell said she hopes to build steadily through the Auckland race and then rely on her running ability.
"All I want is to put myself in contention on the swim and bike so that I can see where I'm at on the run," she said. "Honestly I don't know if that's a podium or if that's a top 10 or a top 15, we'll just have to see."
Great Britain's Jonathan Brownlee and two-time world champion Javier Gomez of Spain are two of the favourites on the men's side. Brownlee won bronze at the London Games and older brother Alistair took the gold.
Alistair won't defend his world title after having his appendix removed a few weeks ago. Olympic medallists Erin Densham of Australia and Lisa Norden of Sweden are expected to be in the mix for the women's title.
In addition to the swimming and running components, elite men's and women's competitors will face an eight-lap bike course that has three challenging hills on each loop.
Competition begins Saturday morning local time with the under-23 women's event. The elite women and men's U23 races are scheduled for later in the day and the elite men's race goes Sunday.
In all, 18 Canadian athletes will compete in the elite, U23 and junior races over the two days of competition.