Coach Michael Nawaleniec
might soon have to re-brand his Triple Threat Triathlon
"Year one, I was at three athletes
and I didn't want any more," said Nawaleniec
with a laugh, hosting practice earlier this week
at the Delki Dozzi cycling track, instructing a
group that has now more than doubled in size.
Not that the club name was ever
in danger of being changed. The "triple"
component refers, of course, to the three legs of
the triathlon (swim, bike and run), and not the
number of young triathletes under his watch.
Still, the growth in athletes and
the scope of their achievements came with some initial
trepidation. "I wasn't sure how much time it
was going to take and to be honest, I don't think
I was really prepared for the challenge that coaching
a club means," said Nawaleniec.
"I've been lucky to have athletes
that want to do the sport, it makes coaching them
that much easier."
Undertaking his first triathlon
in 2010, the Sudbury native ventured over to the
world of coaching, almost by accident, more the
result of a sincere willingness to help those who
ask for help.
"Cycling is probably my core
background," acknowledged Nawaleniec. "What
I've noticed is that the kids just want to have
fun while they're training. I've introduced skills
development on the bike. I didn't think it was going
to go over as well as it did. The kids, that's their
In reality, adding a little pleasure
to the mix does not seem to have diminished the
overall competitiveness of the group, not by one
iota. In action at the final race of the 2017 Youth
Cup a couple of weeks back in Dunrobin, the Triple
Threat crew secured a pair of overall season titles,
with Bella Mastroianni showing the way in the 14-15
Girls division while Ian Mackenzie went four for
four in the races he attended, finishing first in
"A couple of years ago, I did
the triathlon in Orillia for fun, because that's
where my uncle lives," said Mackenzie. "My
brother (Aiden) started with the club, and I was
playing competitive hockey.
"Last year, I decided to give
triathlons a try and just fell in love with it,
so I quit competitive hockey to do this."
It didn't take long before Mackenzie
noted a very distinct difference in the atmosphere
of his two primary athletic pursuits. "At the
races, everyone cheers you on," noted the Grade
8 student at Confederation Secondary. "In hockey,
it wasn't like that."
A very solid cross-country runner
from his days at Pinecrest Public School, Mackenzie
had also done a fair bit of mountain biking in his
youth. The swim, on the other hand, presented some
"I was terrible at swimming
when I started," he said. "I've changed
my form some, trying to close my hands so that the
water doesn't flow through them. And I've stopped
being scared of the seaweed in the lakes."
As for the cycling component, it
wasn't as though it was completely devoid of fear
for the active youngster. "It was OK for me,
but I was still a bit scared to go around the corners,
scared I was going to fall at fast speeds,"
Results would suggest Mackenzie
has conquered his fears quite well.
The real veteran of the group, Mastroianni
completed her first triathlon at the age of seven,
and has found a way to balance a stringent training
program with the Sudbury Laurentian Swim Club with
the time commitment needed for her to secure a berth,
already, in the 2018 Ontario Summer Games.
"Everyone that I swim with
just gets me so motivated to swim, everyone just
pushes each other, which makes me want to swim more
and always try my hardest," she said. "Swimming
is everything to me, but I do love triathlons."
Mastroianni will be joined at the
2018 Games by teammates Aiden Mackenzie and Alex
Lambert, an Elliot Lake native who joined the local
squad. Newcomers, meanwhile, remain welcome, including
15-year-old Lexine Moyle, the latest to enter the
"I was training before on my
own and did two triathlons before joining the club,"
she said. "I was finding it pretty hard motivating
myself. I was actually training at the pool in Gatchell
when my mom saw Michael's sign on his car. He was
While most who fall victim to the
temptation of the triathlon do so armed with a much
better than average base in one of the three disciplines,
Moyle would suggest she is more of a run-of-the-mill,
average athlete, one who is blessed with an outstanding
perspective in terms of chasing down her goals as
"I've done maybe five kilometers
here and there, but I wouldn't say I'm a runner,"
Moyle confessed. "I don't do Track North, I
don't do cross country, I don't swim. I used to
mountain bike a fair bit, but it wasn't competitive
and it's not with a road bike."
"The swim is toughest, for
me, for sure," Moyle continued. "With
the run, you can find little tricks and tips. The
bike has been pretty easy for me. But the swim has
so many elements that you have to figure out, so
you just go at your own pace."
And therein lies the key. "It
could be a little scary at the beginning, but once
I got to know them, they have to keep going at their
level, I'll just keep at my level and maybe one
day, I will be there," said Moyle. "It's
all about sticking to what you're capable of doing
and that's what Michael is trying to say."
That, and the fact that Nawaleniec
is in it for all the right reasons. "The club
doesn't exist to make money, the club exists to
help the kids develop," he said.
Even if that number of kids continues
Randy Pascal's column runs regularly in The Sudbury