Triathlete reveals anemia likely shattered medal hopes
Paula Findlay of Canada stops with team doctor Steve Keeler during the run portion of Triathlon competition at the 2012 Olympic Games in London on Saturday, August 4, 2012. Findlay resumed the race after stopping. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Published Friday, September 14, 2012 11:01AM EDT
Paula Findlay, the Canadian triathlete whose heartbreaking last-place finish at the London 2012 Games stunned her supporters, has learned she is suffering from iron-deficiency anemia.
The condition was likely overlooked by her medical team because so much focus was placed on healing a nagging hip injury.
Findlay shared the news in a blog entry earlier this week entitled “A Series of Unfortunate Events.”
In the post, the 23-year-old Edmonton native said she came home from the Olympics feeling “upset and directionless” after her disappointing finish, but resolved to begin training for the World Championships in October.
She joined a training centre in Guelph, Ont., and began working out, but struggled to reach the levels she was accustomed to.
“I had some blood work done about a week after I arrived just to make sure that everything was normal,” Findlay wrote. “I was feeling tired but assumed this was just an effect from training hard again. Unfortunately the numbers came back with some of the lowest iron levels that the doctors had ever seen.”
She called the condition a “simple but quite serious” problem that she believes had a “huge” impact on her performance in London. And it was likely missed by doctors, she said, because so much of her medical care in the past year was focused on helping her recover from a hip injury.
Findlay put a positive spin on the news, saying the condition is a “fixable, treatable” problem that a lot of athletes struggle with. But she said the diagnosis means she will no longer be able to compete in the World Championships in Auckland, N.Z. in six weeks, and will instead have to set her hopes on next season.
“I’m devastated and frustrated that I can’t have a shot at another race this season. I was hoping to restore some confidence in myself after the Olympic disaster. I guess this will have to wait until next year,” Findlay wrote.
She said she will ramp down the intensity of her training and focus on restoring her iron and energy levels.
Findlay explained the title of her blog post, saying she was referencing her favourite childhood book series about the three Baudelaire children and the trials they face after their parents die. Everything that could go wrong, does go wrong, she writes.
“With every negative situation that I’ve faced this year, I feel more and more like the Baudelaire children, having a continuous string of unfortunate events block my path,” Findlay writes.
However, at the end of the 12-book series the author, Lemony Snicket, explains that there are hardships in life and the world often seems like an “unfriendly and sinister place,” but those hardships often turn out to be the first steps in a journey towards something better.
Findlay said she’s making that her own personal mantra.
“Keep a good outlook, and a series of unfortunate events may not be so unfortunate after all. I knew these kid books were good for something! Thanks Lemony Snicket,” Findlay wrote.
Findlay first started to make headlines on the world triathlon scene in 2009, with a third-place finish in the under-23 category in the ITU World Championship Grand Final triathlon in Australia’s Gold Coast.
From there she kicked off 2010 with a series of wins, including the high-profile World Championship Series event in London.
The 2011 season got off to a similar start, with wins in the first three events of the season, resulting in a first-place ranking for Findlay. However, a hip injury in September 20011 sidelined the athlete for much of the past year leading up to the London Olympics, where she finished 52nd – the last competitor to cross the finish line.
Canada’s other Olympic triathlon medal hope, Simon Whitfield, crashed in the cycling leg of the race and was unable to finish.