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Island triathletes Ridenour, Sobey set to chase Olympic dreams through Pan Am Games

Pan Ams go next month in Santiago, Chile

Desirae Ridenour will be hoping for a South American reprise. The Cowichan Bay triathlete, part of the silver-medallist Canadian mixed-relay team at the 2019 Lima Pan Am Games in Peru, has been selected for the 2023 Pan Am Games beginning next month in Santiago, Chile.

Ridenour, also a track star when at Cowichan Secondary running for the Thunderbirds, also competed in the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games with a fourth-place triathlon mixed-relay finish in Australia.

But it wasn’t easy getting back to this level after two years lost to long COVID and injuries that included concussions from a kick to the head in the swim portion of a race and an accident with an automobile while training on her bike.

“I fell off the map and people thought I had quit,” said the Islander.

“It’s been a long road back. I’m happy to be healthy again.”

With a big target in mind: “The Paris Olympics are definitely the goal and a possibility. But you just never know because this sport is so unpredictable.”

Ridenour will be racing both the individual women’s event and mixed relay in the Santiago Pan Am Games.

There is plenty of other Games experience among the five Canadian triathletes selected to join Ridenour at Santiago 2023. Victoria-based Martin Sobey, Dominika Jamnicky of Guelph, Ont., and Emy Legault of L’Île Perrot, Que., were also among Canada’s team at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England. Also named for Santiago 2023 with Ridenour, Sobey, Jamnicky and Legault are Liam Donnelly of Campbellville, Ont., and Brock Hoel of West Kelowna.

The Canadian team was selected based on results from March 1, 2022, and Aug. 15, 2023 at World Triathlon Championship Series, World Cup, and Continental Cup races. The Pan Am Games will count toward ­qualifying points for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It’s part of a busy year with lots of Olympic qualifying points on the line,” said 2021 University of Victoria economics graduate Sobey.

“I am looking for good, consistent results. I’ve dedicated my whole life to this and it’s been rewarding whether I make the Olympic team or not. If you are passionate about something you take a chance and go after it.”

Triathlon Canada is based in Victoria, and Prince Edward Island-native Sobey has gone from rock to rock and shifted coasts in January of 2016 to be a part of the national team.

“You need system support and we feel supported here in Victoria,” said Sobey.

“Without that support, we would not be able to do it,” noting the cost of living in the B.C. capital.

Canada has won 10 ­ medals in triathlon at the Pan Am Games since 1995, including Ridenour and Hannah Henry of Victoria capturing silver in the mixed-team relay at Lima 2019. The last two Canadian Pan Am Games individual medals were won by two-time Olympian Brent McMahon of Victoria with men’s silver at Rio in 2007 and bronze at Guadalajara in 2011. Simon Whitfield of Victoria took the bronze medal at Winnipeg in 1999. The only two Pan Am Games gold medals won by Canadian triathletes were in women’s by Sharon Donnelly at Winnipeg in 1999 and Jill Savage at the Dominican Republic Games in 2003.

The 2023 Pan Am Games, in Southern Hemisphere spring, go from Oct. 20 to Nov. 5 in the Chilean capital Santiago. Triathlon will take place Nov. 2-4 at the Playa El Sol, Viña del Mar.

Ridenour and Sobey will join the more than 60 Island or Island-based athletes expected to compete for Canada in the 2023 Santiago Pan Am Games. Ridenour was among the Island athletes who won 17 medals in the 2019 Lima Pan Am Games.

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