By Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press, September 12, 2013
Kyle Jones has long raced in the shadow of Canadian triathlon star Simon Whitfield.
It was a spot Jones didn’t mind occupying while he trained alongside the Olympic gold medallist and soaked up all he could about the sport.
But with Whitfield easing into semi-retirement — he has said there’s just a 10 per cent chance he’ll return to full-time racing — Jones said he’s more than ready to become the new face for his sport in Canada.
The 28-year-old Jones is considered Canada’s top hope for a medal in the elite races at this weekend’s 2013 PruHealth World Triathlon Grand Final in London.
“It’s definitely something I looked forward to,” Jones said on shouldering the role as team leader. “I think the best way I can lead is just by example, and that starts with just training and preparation and showing up on the day and executing. Simon helped me over the years with advice and guidance and definitely I’m open to helping any of the young guys, sort of passing along the info and paying it forward.
“It’s definitely a role I look forward to being involved in more and more over the next three years leading into Rio (the 2016 Olympics).”
Jones rose up through the sport’s ranks behind Whitfield, the two spending four or five hours a day training together in Victoria over some six years.
“We did spend a lot of time together, but it is good to kind of have a change and my own direction,” Jones said. “A lot of times when we were training together, (Whitfield) being the more dominant one, he sort of led the way and I was happy to follow. But you come to the point where you need to start making decisions for yourself and I’ve quite enjoyed that change.”
Jones won the national junior title in 2003, and raced to fourth-place finishes at the Pan American Games in 2007 and 2011.
Then he won the Canadian championships last year and went into the London Olympics as Canada’s top-ranked male. A bike crash took Whitfield out of the mix at the Olympics, and Jones was Canada’s top finisher in 25th.
Jones, an Oakville, Ont., native, wasn’t pleased with the result on the Olympic course that he’ll cover on again Sunday, saying a poor swim left him out of the hunt.
“Definitely looking forward to going back there and getting a little bit of redemption,” Jones said.
This passing-of-the-torch season hasn’t been all smooth sailing for Jones, however. Coming off one of his best winters of training, he had bike crashes in two early races in Auckland, N.Z. — where he said he had been poised for a podium performance — and San Diego.
He also left Victoria and moved back closer to home in Milton, Ont.
“There was kind of a shift of what was happening in Victoria, the group sort of wasn’t what it was, with Simon retiring, and a bunch of other athletes going in different directions,” Jones said. “I pretty much had to do what was best for me, and put myself in a situation where I can be successful.”
“It was definitely a tough start to the season. Would have been nice to have had a few more results on the World Series, but if I was going to have things happen like they did, then this year is the year for sure.”
Jones hopes to improve on his sixth-place finish at the World Series Grand Final last year. The favourites are Great Britain’s Alistair Brownlee and Jonathan Brownlee and Javier Gomez of Spain, who’ve dominated the World Triathlon Series podium this season.
Alistair Brownlee won the Olympic triathlon last summer on much the same course, that starts with a 1.5-kilometre swim in Hyde Park before a 40-kilometre bike ride that circles Buckingham Palace, capped by a 10-kilometre run that finishes in Hyde Park.
Kirsten Sweetland of Nanaimo, B.C., withdrew from Saturday’s elite women’s race due to illness.
As for the next three years heading into the Rio Olympics, Jones hopes to reach the podium at next summer’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, and the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto.
“Definitely being in Toronto, you can’t get much more of a hometown race than that,” Jones said. “So that’s one that I’ll be definitely gunning for a medal in and hopefully gold.”