Colin Jenkins

Colin Jenkins

(c) Christopher Kelsall - 2008 - All Rights Reserved.

You may remember Colin Jenkins, the Canadian triathlete who celebrated finishing the Beijing Olympics Triathlon more than any other athlete did. He was joyously demonstrative running down the home stretch, motioning to the crowd to cheer more as he ambled in - and cheer they did! Yet Colin was finishing dead last.

Considering this, you may wonder why he was celebrating so much. For those of you who may not follow triathlon very closely, Colin was celebrating because he had just done his job as instructed, to the letter. Like in hockey, he scored an assist helping fellow Canadian, Simon Whitfield score an Olympic Games silver medal, mere seconds from gold.

"Colin did a brilliant job in Beijing and played a key role in the team's silver medal performance,"
says Coach, Joel Filliol.

I will spare you from the dramatism of what media rascality took place in response to the team selection process (use your imagination), I will say that I am assuming two faster triathletes were left off the team because they very likely would not have medalled anyway and someone on that team absolutely had to medal, to secure another 4 years of funding.

Bear in mind, this is my assumption. No one has said so much as a peep to me about this, but I am prone to betting on occasion.

Regardless, there was Colin Jenkins, an unlikely candidate to be competing in the Olympics. He was unlikely because he had a run in with a car that curtailed his running training leading up to the big show. However, his stealth remained in-tact as a cyclist and as a swimmer.

Colin suddenly found himself Whitfield's domestique and boy did they pull it off with near perfection. I too would have been celebrating.

Simon said, "Colin's work ethic this year was simply astounding. Long rides in the rain and snow (flagstaff AZ). He's a bugger to train with at times, but aren't we all. We were teammates, not just on race day, but in the months and years of work that went into it. As the rowing captain said "medals are won in the summer and earned in the winter", Colin was there earning it every step of the way and I can't say enough about what that meant to me."

The interview

CK: Colin, during your post race interview with CBC, I think you said that the team approach you two employed won't always work, but it worked that day. In what situations does the team effort not work?

CJ: It is very hard to judge what type of impact a team racer has on the field. It can look like a team racer is not needed when the pack comes together and no one tries to break away.

Now is the reason why no one tries to get away because they know that someone's sole job in that pack is to chase down any main contenders who try to get away? Knowing that someone's job in the pack is this and they do not have to worry about conserving energy for the run can be intimidating and discouraging.

Team racing also does not work when your team leader is not someone who can run with the leaders on any given days. Just because they have conserved a little energy and the pack is all together does not mean that they are miraculously going to run a sub 30min 10km. This is where some people get the idea that team racing does not work. Of course it does not work when the team leader was never a contender in the first place.

But there are dozens of scenarios where it does work and works to perfection.

CK: You grew up in Hamilton, Ontario. Is the steel city big on endurance sports? Is it a good environment to grow up in sport-wise.

CJ: Hamilton has a very active community. I grew up swimming with the Hamilton-Wentworth Aquatic Club (HWAC). I remember we won multiple provincial club championships when I was younger. When I was growing up I was involved in every sport imaginable, whether it was house-league or through the schools. So yes, I do feel that it is a good environment to grow up in sport-wise. If a kid wants to play a sport, I am almost certain that there will be a league for them in the city.

There are also multiple running and triathlon clubs for people to join and be active in. 

CK: I understand your strength is in cycling first and foremost. Your swim was right up there where you needed it to be. What happened during the run? There was mention of injury and not much run training, leading up to the Olympics.

CJ: About two months ago while I was out for a training ride, a car stopped in the middle of the road and I slammed into the back of the trunk. My knee was bothering me for a while so I focused solely on my swimming and biking leading up to the Olympics. As I've said before, I know I've done my job as a team racer when I get off my bike and think "how in the world am I going to run 10k now!"

CK: Regarding your finishing the tri, there is much talk of your celebration. You may be noted as the first person to celebrate while finishing dead last. There! You unofficially own a record (Eddie the Eagle notwithstanding). Are there any plans to keep that streak alive?

CJ: The Olympics was an amazing experience for me. I was celebrating the success of my team mate as well as my childhood dream coming true. I am still living in that moment.

CK: You said you almost stopped to watch the jumbo screen. I say you should have. That would have been most epic! Imagine the image of you just standing there looking up, watching as the event plays out! Sportsdesk would have had that moment in their plays of the month and probably the opening of their show. Any regrets on that?

CJ: Not at all. I came to race in the Olympics. While I was excited for Simon, I had my own race to finish as well … I did not want to keep everyone waiting for me to finish!

That sweet ride

CK: Your main ride is a Cervelo. They seem to be a hot item in the Tri world. As a bike newb, what besides the obvious engineering magic, done by Cervelo engineers, using carbon fibre materials makes your ride so good.

CJ: I ride the Cervelo Soloist. The reason why Cervelo is a hot item right now is simply because they make great bikes that go fast! Cervelo spends a lot of time in the wind tunnels to design a bike that is more aerodynamically advanced than any other bike on the market.

My job was to be at the front of the bike pack and take charge. I also needed to be able to chase down any attacks when needed and be able to do so without expending unnecessary energy.  This is why a Soloist is a great bike, it is very light, stiff, and extremely aerodynamic. It is also a Canadian company so that is an added bonus!

CK: Initially it appeared in the press that team mate Paul Tichelaar and you were to be domestiques for Whitfield. You are probably sick of this subject by now. Regardless, Paul decided to go on his own. Obviously he felt capable of more than just helping Simon to a medal. Is there any animosity over the way things turned out?

CJ: There are no hard feelings at all. Paul is an extremely talented athlete and no one wanted him doing anything that his heart wasn't in.

CK: Being a runner interviewing you for a running specific website, I would be remiss if I didn't ask you a run specific question. Any chance we will see you on the roads racing a local 10k or perhaps a cross country race this autumn.

CJ: Being located near Toronto now, there are a plethora of local running races. I do like to throw in a road race here and there during the winter period. I think that it is going to be hard to get in the amount of training that I used to get now that I am a full time student, but I will for sure be keeping fit during this time.

CK: Long term athletic goals.
CJ: My long term goals were achieved this past year. Now I have other goals of finishing school and getting that out of the way.

Changing gears a little

CK: You mentioned that when growing up in Hamilton, you played many sports. Being educated in phys. ed. and health, what do you make of Canadian youth sports and health education today versus when you were growing up.
CJ: When I was growing up we would have phys-ed almost everyday in school. Now I am hearing that kids are lucky to get one day in a week and that some schools do not even have a phys-ed program in their schools. How are kids going to learn that being active and just general playing outside is fun? Education starts early with the kids and I think that fun physical activities outside should be implemented in schools everyday from the beginning.
CK: If any, what key changes do you think need to be made? For example, there are more kids enrolling in soccer in this country than ever before, yet the media suggests there is starting to be a weight issue with Canadian youth. 
CJ: The two main issues are diet and exercise. There may be more kids playing soccer and other sports, but their diets could all be wrong, which may cause the health problems that we are seeing all around us. It is ultimately up to the parents to be good role models for their children and make sure that their needs nutritionally and physically are being met.
CK: While in Beijing you became engaged to be married. These are exciting times, being an Olympian, getting engaged, going back to school full time. How are you going to top this?
CJ: It is going to be pretty hard to top all that has happened to me in the past little while.  Everything that I have been working towards and developing over the past 4 years worked out and came true over the past month. I could not have asked for anything better!

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