Triathlete Kirsten Sweetland, sidelined by health, calls it a career

Triathlete Kirsten Sweetland of Victoria, a former teen prodigy who overcame career-threatening injuries to realize her dream last year in Rio of competing in the Olympics, has retired.

The 28-year-old knew it was time because “the decision came a little bit too easy,” she said.

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Sweetland found out five months before Rio that she suffers from Lyme disease. It was just the latest in a series of health setbacks that several times nearly derailed a career that began with winning the world junior championship at age 16.

“Such is life. This is the hand I have been dealt,” said Sweetland.

“I love the sport. I lived for it. But I believe I can live without it. Health is my main priority. Competing in the ITU [International Triathlon Union] really stresses the body and takes a lot out of it.”

Sweetland said she still remains active and has taken up dirt biking, mountain biking, skiing and surfing on a recreational basis.

The Stelly’s Secondary graduate made her announcement Thursday and spent part of the afternoon looking at old race videos and newspaper articles at her family home on the Saanich Peninsula.

“I am proud of what I accomplished,” she said.

“My silver medal from the Commonwealth Games [Glasgow 2014] is something I will cherish forever.”

So, too, finally becoming an Olympian at Rio 2016 after injuries and illness scuttled her chances for both Beijing 2008 and London 2012. It was the culmination of an arduous climb overcoming numerous health obstacles.

Another career highlight was becoming the second female Canadian ever to race to the podium in the World Triathlon Series when Sweetland captured bronze in 2014 at Hamburg, Germany.

Also announcing their retirements Thursday were fellow Canadian Olympic triathletes Sarah-Anne Brault of Quebec City and Andrew Yorke of Caledon, Ont.

“These are three incredibly gifted athletes who have carried a heavy load for our sport for much of the last decade,” said Eugene Liang, Triathlon Canada’s high-performance director.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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