© Copyright – 2017 – Victoria Sports News
Victoria’s Kirsten “Sweets” Sweetland calls it a day, ending her professional triathlon career at the age of 28, due mostly to her struggle with Lyme disease.
“Since being diagnosed with Lyme disease, the idea of training for one of the hardest sports out there, training wise, just seems like an unhealthy idea,” shared Sweetland.
Sweetland had her Beijing and London Olympic dreams fall short due to various injuries. Rio was her first Olympic Games; she wasn’t going to let Lyme disease get in her way.
“I tried for two years to get to the Olympics and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and really drained me and my love for the sport because it was so physically and mentally difficult.”
She added, “I couldn’t even text until recently. I’m still getting my brain back! Off medication after Rio I could hardly write so I’ve come a really long way, but I am not there yet!”
“Lyme affects your brain and nervous system and causes debilitating fatigue,” shared Sweetland. “I had numb limbs, low blood pressure and lack of oxygen in Rio, it was the worst.”
She did earn a silver medal at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
Asked which accomplishments she is most proud of, the Stelly’s Secondary grad said, “My junior world championship win (U23), World Cup win at age 19, Commonwealth Games silver medal and World Series top-10 finish and Rio Olympics.”
Asked if she will pursue different sports, she told Victoria Sports News, “While health is my priority I do have sporting goals outside of ITU racing. I have a love for the trails and I hope to race off the road.”
Although Sweetland experienced plenty of injuries during her late teens and early 20s, she has been virtually injury free since 2012.
“I’ve had one injury in five years and had really gotten a handle of it before I got Lyme disease. I was setting myself up for some real success I think!”
Sweetland was identified at a young age as a potential international talent. She progressed from the Kids of Steel program and into the junior ranks. Her career overlapped with Simon Whitfield’s and they did some training together. Whitfield was the first Olympic Gold medallist in the event winning the inaugural Olympic triathlon at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. She learned early what hard work is all about. Since then triathlon competition has advanced.
Asked about the stiffer competition now versus the early days, Sweetland said, “Yes it is much less forgiving, I think podiums were always just as hard as they are now but the depth has increased significantly. It doesn’t take much to find yourself outside the top-20 or 30 these days!”
Sweetland will become an online coach and eventually go to school to become a Registered Massage Therapist, but she is not ready for school yet. In fact, her physician has not given her the green light, that’s how physically draining Olympic triathlon training with Lyme disease is.
Sweetland earned eight podium finishes in global championships including four gold medals. She is one of Canada’s greatest all-time triathletes.