It is not every day when an Olympic curler decides that they are giving up the sport they have played for most of their life in favour of triathlon.
But that’s the path Joanne Courtney took earlier this year – at which point she admitted she still needed to learn how to swim and ride a bike.
The Canadian has set her sights on the first ever PTO US Open in September which features the same 2km swim / 80km bike / 18km run that the pros will tackle.
But the first stepping stone to that comes this weekend on home soil in Edmonton with the inaugural PTO Canadian Open where she lines up for the 25km race (500m / 20km / 4.5km).
Stellar curling career
And it’s fair to say it’s been quite a journey.
Speaking to TRI247, the 33-year-old revealed why she decided to start training for triathlons and the challenges she’s faced.
Courtney picked up curling when she was seven years of age, before starting to seriously compete in the sport during her early teenage years. This would lead to her becoming a professional under Team Rachel Homan, going on to represent her country at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Courtney said: “The highlights would be 2017 when we won the World Championship and in 2018, we were in Pyeongchang for the Olympics, which was just the most amazing experience.
“And then throughout all that, there were Grand Slam wins – they were the big moments and of course, there were disappointing moments too, but it’s been a really great career.”
Courtney, who has a son who has just turned three, also works as a nurse in the dialysis unit.
And explaining why she decided to shift her focus away from the sport she has been involved in for more than 25 years, she said: “I’m 33 now and after doing it for about a decade of just curling being number one and always that main focus, I just kind of hit a point where I was ready for a bit of a change.”
Having taken the decision to step back from curling, Courtney needed to find a new “focus” in her life and after speaking with Taren Gessel – YouTube’s popular ‘MōTTIV Taren’ and a former curler himself, she was convinced this was going to be triathlon.
“He kind of planted the seed about triathlon,” Courtney began.
“My initial thought was there’s no way I can do this, which is always when you get a little bit excited about something, because anytime you can look in the mirror a month, two months, six months down the road and see yourself able to do something you couldn’t even come close to doing, I mean, that’s the biggest thing, and that’s what you chase a lot of your athletic career.”
Lots to learn
Her first open water swim came in May and she admitted: “The last time I’d swum front crawl continuously was when I was maybe a pre-teen.
Courtney also needed to become accustomed to riding a bike, even from the point of view of clipping in [click here for our ultimate triathlon jargon-buster] during the early stages and it’s been clear via her engaging social media feed that incredible progress has been made.
The running was less of a struggle, having clocked up three half-marathons during the last two years.
She added: “This stuff makes you excited, right? And the biggest excitement for me is that it’s just me versus myself.”
Right at the start her modest goals were: “Don’t drown, don’t fall off the bike, and then hopefully make it through the run.”
And she’s clearly inspiring others on the journey – no wonder given the commitments she’s had to juggle.
“When I kind of bring stuff up to my trainer, it’s like I’m explaining something to him that he’s obviously very familiar with, but he just said a lot of triathletes are very ‘type A’ and they’re not people that do things by halves, you do it full on.
“And I think that that’s something that resonates with me. I think I found a really good fit for me and hopefully it’s something that I love so much that I can continue this and be an age-group triathlete for years to come and get that motivation piece for fitness.”
Good luck from all at TRI247 to Joanne this weekend in Edmonton.