Matthew Sharpe from Campbell River and Great Britain’s Emma Pallant collected world honours after being victorious at the 2017 Penticton ITU Aquathlon World Championships. Being the best of those who can swim and then run, the multisport championships saw athletes conquer a one-kilometre swim followed by a five-kilometre run.
Joining Pallant on the women’s podium, junior Delia Sclabas (SUI) finished second among the elites to get her an upgraded medal, while the bronze went to British compatriot Jacqueline Slack.
On the men’s side, Penticton crowds were treated to a home nation sweep as Canadians John Rassmussenand Aiden longcroft-Harris made the podium along with Sharpe.
The full mix of elite, U23 and junior racers started off the aquathlon event with a beach start into Okanagan Lake. With the cloud cover making for a windy and slightly cooler day, the athletes had to endure a tough and choppy swim for the one-kilometre lap.
The challenging swim made for some separation among the field, but it was Canadian Longcroft-Harris who was the swim leader and made the first exit. He was followed by four men, including three other Canadians Sharpe, Rasmussen and Brennen Smith giving the home nation an early lead with four men exiting the waters within the top five, Ukraine’s Denys Fedorchenko was also in the mix.
With a swift transition, the run was only a short five-kilometre two lap course. After the first 2.5 kilometre halfway point, Sharpe had pushed through into the lead position looking strong and gaining his advantage with every stride. It became clear that the possibility of a Canadian elite sweep would be likely since right after Shape there was Longcroft-Harris and Smith.
Sharpe held onto his lead and grazed into the finish line with the Canadian flag on his shoulder to grab the tape and take his first-ever world title.
Second place then went to Rasmussen, who outran Longcroft-Harris and Smith in the last lap of the run, leaving the bronze medal to Longcroft-Harris.
“I feel pretty good, it has a nice little ring to it I think. For it was very special just being here, I am from this province, I have raced in the Okanagan here ever since I was a little kid. So it is very special to be World Champion here in Canada, to have the support from everyone here was what kept me going out there,” said Sharpe of winning his home soil championship.
The U23 men’s podium was Brennen Smith (CAN), Carol Dupont (FRA) and Kyle Smith (NZL). The women’s podium was Chloe Pollard (GBR), Keisha Besler (CAN) and Penny Slater (AUS).
The junior men’s podium was Aiden Longcroft-Harris (CAN), Michael Milic (CAN) and Jorge Andre Cabrera Silva (MEX). While on the women’s side, Delia Sclabas (SUI), Holly Henry (CAN) and Colette Reimer (CAN) was the junior podium.
While the women’s field was small, the competition was fierce. Multiple women entered the aquathlon event already having won a Multisport medal earlier in the week.
After a short staggered start from the men’s race, the women’s start line that was made up of elites, U23s and juniors ran in Okanagan Lake to start the one-kilometre swim. The wind and colder weather made for a challenging and choppy swim.
Great Britain’s Chloe Pollard exited the swim first with a healthy advantage of over a minute. Following behind was then Keisha Besler (CAN) and Holly Henry (CAN), Pallant was eighth out of the water and had to make up a deficit of almost three minutes.
Onto the run Pollard had a commanding lead, but was being chased by some very strong runners behind her.
With much ground to cover, it took the first few kilometres for Pallant to get her stride, but she caught up to the front in the second lap and did not slow down.
Pallant bypassed the competition and finished the five-kilometre course first to get her first aquathlon world championship. The gold then would be added to her already earned bronze medal from the duathlon event earlier in the Multisport week.
Junior Sclabas then took the silver, also the duathlon junior champion, she pulled off a swift run to get the second place in the elite category. The bronze then went to Great Britain’s Slack, who had a strong run as well after making up ground from a tough swim.
Pallant said of her come-from-behind victory, “I came out with a young whippersnapper of a junior, which she pushed me all the way. So I am used to chasing and she went ahead in the swim in the front, but I am really happy to come away with a win.”