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Airdrie triathlete makes podium in first two events at Canada Summer Games

Airdrie triathlete Sophia Howell earned her first piece of hardware of the 2022 Canada Summer Games on Aug. 8, swimming, running and cycling her way to a third-place finish in the women's sprint triathlon. 
Airdrie triathlete Sophia Howell (left) turns on the burners during the bike portion of Sunday's sprint triathlon.

Airdrie triathlete Sophia Howell earned her first piece of hardware of the 2022 Canada Summer Games on Aug. 8, swimming, running and cycling her way to a third-place finish in the women's sprint triathlon. 

And she followed it up with a silver medal in the super sprint race, held two days later. 

While she was pleased to make the podium in her first of three triathlon events at this year's games – held Aug. 6 to 21 in Niagara, Ont. – the 19-year-old Airdrie native said her goal heading into the opening race was to finish first. 

“Unfortunately that didn’t happen, but I’m still happy I managed to get on the podium, even with not having a great day,” she said after her first race.

Up against not just a slate of competitors but also difficult weather, Howell said the conditions were difficult to contend with. 

“It was very windy and rainy, so kind of sketchy on the bike, but other than that, it was pretty flat,” she said of the course, which included a 750-metre (m) swim, 20-kilometre bike, and five-kilometre run. 

“The run was flat as well, just with a lot of turning. It was a pretty slow course as well. The swim course was good. The first buoy was only 90 metres away, so it was a bit of a battle to the first one, but after that, [it spread out].”

According to Howell, a bronchitis diagnosis just a few weeks ago made last-minute preparations difficult for the Canada Summer Games.

The illness may have contributed to her feeling unusually sluggish by the time she got to the third of her three events on Sunday.

“I bonked pretty hard when I got to the run, so that was a mistake on my end – I just had no energy left,” she said.

The triathlete said she has one more event to compete in at this month's Canada Summer Games: the team relay event on Friday, alongside three of her Alberta teammates.

In addition to competing, Howell was one of just two Alberta athletes tasked with carrying the team's banner during the games' opening ceremonies on Aug. 6. She said it was an exciting honour as she joined over 400 of her teammates on the procession into the stadium.

This year marks Howell's sole opportunity to compete at the Canada Summer Games, which are only held every four years and feature some of the top U20-aged athletes in the country. She said it's been a great opportunity to race on home soil against other talented young triathletes, as most of the races she competes in are held in either the U.S. or other countries.

“It’s great. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to, with COVID, but luckily they extended the age category for those who were able to race the triathlon,” she said.

Like virtually all athletes, Howell had to put her sporting career on hold in 2020, when COVID-19 restrictions limited her training regime and competition prospects.

After a frustrating year off, she returned to the fray in 2021, competing at races in the U.S. and Portugal, including the world junior championships and the Pan American Championships.

With COVID restrictions fully removed this year, Howell said she was raring to go, but an elbow injury sustained in her first race of 2022 plagued the early part of her season. However, she added she's still been able to rebound from that setback in order to qualify for and compete at both the U23 Canadian nationals and this month's Canada Summer Games.

“It’s been a process to get back. I got bronchitis two weeks ago, so it’s been a bit up and down,” she said. “I got to race in Mexico in May, which was good, in Ixtapa, and then went to Europe after that. And then I did the selection races for the Canada Games.”

A 2020 graduate of the Edge School for student-athletes in Springbank, Howell is also preparing to enter her second year of studies at the Pacific Design School in Victoria, B.C. 

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