World Triathlon Championships

Here’s Kim’s World Triathlon Championships story:

“It was 8:45 a.m. on September 2, 2006, in Lausanne, Switzerland. I slid into the cold water of Lake Geneva along with 50 other A.W.A.D.’s (Athlete’s With A Disability).

The horn blew to start the swim of the World Triathlon Championships. There were 12 divers underneath the groups of swimmers and if someone got into trouble one was right there. I started to swim and about a quarter of the way in my face was hit by a wave as I tried to take a breath. I started to choke. I saw a diver coming toward me and I knew if he pushed me up out of the water a boat would come and pluck me out. I’d be disqualified. I motioned that I was okay and although I was still choking needed to keep moving. I flipped over and started doing the backstroke. The water was still coming over my face, but I was finally able to get my breathing under control. Flipping back over, I started to do the front crawl. The diver was still with me and I gave him the thumbs up sign.

I caught up to the back pack of the swimmers and came out of the water after 39 minutes. Pamela Fralick, Team Canada Manager was acting as my aide. Pamela helped with my wet suit, gave me my walker and glasses. I left the transition and headed out onto the bike course and what a course.

I hadn’t been able to tour the course with other athletes as a bike part was missing from my bike box which was banged up and torn somewhere between Calgary and Lausanne. The course ended up being a lot harder than I had anticipated. The hills were challenging, especially with my disability and my bike. I had been riding my bike 2 years ago and a lady turned left in front of me. I tried to swerve, but both my bike and my body ended up being hit. The derailleur was bent and had to be replaced. My bike is a 20 year old Gardin and the derailleur that was installed had to be shifted manually. If I tried to change to the big or small gears, the chain would usually fall off, so I ended up with only 3 to 5 gears. I sure needed a whole lot more for the hills of Lausanne.

The A.W.A.D.’s had gone onto the course first, followed by the young guns and then older groups of men, then the women. The course was so tough that when going down one hill there was a section of cobblestone in the middle and a hairpin turn at the bottom. I’d watched several men crash. I was distracted from my bike troubles and watching the crashes that I lost count of my laps. I couldn’t remember if I was starting or finishing my third of four laps. I knew if I finished the race I’d get a gold medal, so I did another lap. Sure enough I ended up doing 50 kilometers instead of 40, but I didn’t get disqualified.

I came back into the transition, grabbed my foot brace and walker and headed out to do the 10 km run. There were 2500 athletes from over 50 countries. As I ran around the course most of the men hit my left shoulder, yelled or quietly expressed encouragement. A couple men even stopped to give me a hug when I was adjusting my foot brace.

A Suisse newspaper estimated that there were over 60,000 spectators. The majority of them were around the run course. It the most emotional run I’ve ever experienced. Thousands of people were waving flags screaming support and not just for their own countries. The spectators would scream “Canada” and other encouragements in many languages, as I ran past. One group from Mexico went nuts on each of my laps and really got the crowd around them fired up. There was one American coach who screamed encouragements so loudly and was so funny, I stopped and told him he needed to come and sit on my walker to keep me motivated. Many from the U.K. and a few other countries teased me about he basket on my walker and said that if was gong to the market to pick them up some things. Each lap they would ask if I had their groceries. The Canadian and female athletes from other countries called my name or “Canada”. After a couple of laps many people were calling me by name. I laughed. I cried. It was such an incredible experience I didn’t want it to end.

I was running down the home stretch when a fellow Canadian athlete called me over to the side and handed me a small flag. I turned the corner and while crying headed towards the finish line. One young American athlete ran past and as he got to the finish line he stopped, put his arm out and down and let me cross first.

After I crossed the line and for the rest of the day hundreds and hundreds of people gave me high fives, took pictures, hugged, kissed and carried me, hit my shoulder with encouragement and congratulations.

Later that evening, about 15 Canadians and I went out to dinner. They bought me a piece of cake with a sparkler to celebrate my birthday. Wow! What a way to spend my 48th birthday. I was in Switzerland, had just competed in a World Triathlon Championship and finished the race to get a gold medal for my country.

The next day a group of us watched the Elite races and then headed over to the banquet and awards. After dinner the A.W.A.D. winners were called up to get their medals. I was called second and stood on the stage up on the podium, in front of several thousand people and received a gold medal for Canada. People clapped, cheered and yelled encouragements. I was given a huge basket filled with cheeses. After hugs, kisses, pictures and watching my 2 fellow Canadians also receive medals, I walked back to my table. When I took my medal off and looked at it I began to sob. Canada had tied Germany for 4th place in the standings with a total of 9 medals.

I never in my wildest dream would have thought this could happen. This was all due to a fellow triathlete who had read an article in the newspaper. Chuck Amerongen from Amerongen and Company, his business partners and many clients raised the funds for me to go. I’d not met Chuck before that day, and have not yet met the other sponsors who I’ve listed below. I will never forget what they did for a 48 year old, single mom who does triathlons with a foot brace and walker.

A few days later I met up with 27 people and we began our 2 week cycling tour in Switzerland. We went through farmer’s fields, cities, across valleys, cantons, up, down and through the Suisse Alps, but that’s a whole other story. “