Sault Stryders
Running Club

Smith preparing to view St. Joseph Island triathlon from different view
Reported August 9, 2004 by BILL MONTAGUE for The Sault Star
Sault Ste Marie, Ontario

As a world-level triathlete, Sherri Smith knows all about going the distance and putting in the time to accomplish something really spectacular. Her will and determination have made her one of Canada's top, up-and-coming stars in a sport that truly tests the human spirit and it seems that everything she touches turns to gold.

Now, instead of putting her body through another gruelling triathlon, the 28-year-old Smith is trying her hand at organizing one and is ecstatic with the response. With the St. Joseph Island Triathlon just five days away, registration is nearing 200, a figure Smith says is a reflection of the need for such an event in this area.

It is also a sign of things to come. Not only is Smith determined to make this event an annual one but she's hopeful of one day attracting the kind of world-class triathletes that will transform the race into one of Canada's most popular.

"Everything's been very positive," said Smith, who competes as an elite triathlete on the world stage and will be in B.C. Aug. 21 for the Canadian championships. "It's a little bit overwhelming, especially considering this is the first year. The Thunder Bay triathlon, which has been around for years, had something like 200 competitors this year and we're already closing in on that and this is only our first year.

"I've always felt there's a need for a triathlon in this area. We have a lot of cottages here and we get a lot of visitors from the States and some of them are taking advantage of this opportunity."

What the Sault and area also has, is the climate and environment for such an event. With the scenic beauty the Island has to offer coupled by its natural habitat, Smith said St. Joseph represents a recipe for success.

"Not only do we want to make this an annual event but a very popular one, too," she said. "We have a three-year business plan for the event and our ultimate goal is to bring in 1,000 competitors and bring in a lot of volunteers to work it.

"It's very ideal. I've been to Huntsville, Portugal, Caledon and I can't see a course that beats ours. Our course is very beautiful, very appropriate and very safe.

"This weekend (last weekend), I swam in a pond in Caledon that was full of gas and you couldn't even see your hands."

She's hoping that through her emergence in the sport, she'll be able to gain some clout with the triathlon fraternity and entice some of the world's top stars to give the St. Joseph Island race a chance.

After all, if all goes according to plan, Smith will find herself competing in the 2008 Olympics. She also hopes that this event will appeal to so many competitors that they'll return home and boast about it.

"I'm hoping that people who compete in it will say it's a great event and tell their friends about it," she said. "I hope through my own progress in the sport, I'll earn the respect of my competitors and be in a better position to approach them and invite them here."

Because of the enormous responsibility of organizing the race, Smith won't be able to compete this weekend but she hopes to perform on the Island in future years. She said none of this could have been possible without the help of endless volunteers and the co-operation of St. Joseph Island.

Saturday's event will also feature a duathlon and a kid's of steel competition. The Olympic distance triathlon will feature a 1,500-kilometre swim followed by a 40-kilometre bike ride and a 10-kilometre run. A scaled down version (half those distances) will be held for the beginner or recreational triathlete.

The duathlon, meanwhile, will consist of a 5-kilometre run followed by a 20-kilometre bike ride and a 2.5-kilometre run. The distances for the kid's of steel vary, depending on the age groups.

The kids portion of the swim will take off from the Women's Institute Beach while the adults will leave right off the marine, in front of the Wharf Restaurant.

For Smith, the kid's of steel event is somewhat of a tribute to the late Dr. Hui Lee, who died of a sudden heart attack earlier this year. Dr. Lee once approached Smith about organizing such an event and she's now honoured to be able to do it.

"He approached me after the Eco-Challenge (in the Sault last year) and asked if I could organize a kid's of steel," Smith said. "He really thought it would be great. Dr. Lee was so focussed on getting children healthy and active that he thought it would be great to organize one."

And with Smith spearheading the project, you can bet that this weekend's race will be a memorable one.