By RON FANFAIR
Gauging by last weekend’s third place finish at the International Triathlon Union’s (ITU) elite men Pan Am Cup race at Ontario Place just two weeks before the Commonwealth Games, Jason Wilson – who is recovering from injury – passed the test with flying colours since his last competitive race 10 months ago.
Set to represent Barbados at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow on July 24, Wilson – who has been hobbled by a right leg neural injury – was using the event to measure his fitness and competitiveness.
“This was really a test and I didn’t expect to finish third,” said Wilson, who spent the first 18 years of his life in Barbados before coming to Canada to pursue engineering studies and a triathlon career. “I entered this race to see where I am at and get a good solid workout. Now, I will just have to see how my leg recovers after this.”
The triathlon is a multi-stage competition involving swimming, cycling and running in intermediate succession over various distances.
Wilson completed the 1.5-kilometre swim in 18 mins. 52 secs., the 40-kilometre cycle race in 58 mins. .07 secs. and the 10-kilometre running event in 31 mins. 33 secs.
His overall time of 1:49.36 was third behind 2012 Olympian Kyle Jones, who clocked 1:48.26 and training partner Alexander Hinton, who completed the course in 1:48.35.
Wilson said the course conditions were perfect.
“The water was not cold, there was not a lot of wind and the temperature was about 28 degrees which was great,” he said. “I also like the technical kind of swim aspect here in that it’s very spectator-friendly. I am looking forward to be back here next year.”
The same course will be used during the 2015 Pan American Games, where Wilson will line-up as a starter once he’s fit. He has the ranking and qualifying time to represent Barbados at the Games.
Of the three sports disciplines, the University of Guelph student said that cycling – which he considers his strongest event – has been hampered the most by the injury.
“I get an annoying pain when I am cycling and I have not been able to do much of that,” he said. “However, it’s hard to really use my strength to advantage on this course because it’s so flat. I like courses that are tougher with lots of hills.”
Craig Taylor, the Canadian National Training Centre-Guelph head coach, said Wilson has made a remarkable recovery.
“It has been a significant series of injuries, about three or four, and we have a great rehab team at home,” he said. “If you had asked us six or eight weeks ago if he would race at the Commonwealth Games, we weren’t even sure. He has come along really well in the last few weeks.”
Taylor said Wilson is very coachable.
“Jason takes feedback, makes changes and adapts to situations very well,” said Taylor. “He’s driven, tenacious, very smart and makes good decisions.”
Born and raised in Barbados which is surrounded by many beaches, Wilson swam a lot and ran track at St. Michael School, the alma mater of Barbados’ first and only female Governor-General, Dame Nita Barrow, who died in 1995, and retired swimmer, Leah Martindale, who was the first Black female to reach an Olympic final in the 50-metre freestyle at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.
Wilson was introduced to triathlon by Peter Gibbs, who pioneered the sport in Barbados. A university lecturer, Gibbs – in August 2004 became the 36th person and the second oldest at age 56 to swim across Lake Ontario in 18 hours and 40 minutes.
“Peter used to put on races for kids every month and there was where I started,” said Wilson. “I travelled to Grenada and Trinidad & Tobago a couple of times and fell in love with the sport. I also came to Canada and raced as a junior on a few occasions. Racing here is much more competitive than in Barbados and that was the reason for me making the move to Canada. I have also spent some summers in Europe racing.”
With the Pan Am Games and Rio Olympics looming, Wilson will take a year off from school to pursue his dream of winning a medal at a major competition.
“I missed the London Olympics after coming up short in the last qualifier in Madrid,” he said. “I was disappointed and I don’t want to make that mistake again.”
Wilson, who was enrolled his first year at Dalhousie before transferring to the University of Guelph, is also cognizant of the fact that next year’s Pan Am Games winner will secure a spot for the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro.
His Canadian-born father and Barbadian mother reside in Barbados.
“I texted them after his performance today and they were thrilled,” said Taylor.