Brock Hoel is a fine example of why it’s good for your kids to try different sports.
The 18-year-old West Kelowna triathlete remembers loving hockey as a boy. But he also admits success didn’t come easily in much else.
“I was awful at swimming when I was young,” he said with a laugh. “I stayed in the middle of the field and threw grass in soccer. I was actually not a very motivated kid.”
About eight years old, he tried his first triathlon in Alberta, where he was born and raised.
Everyone was pleasantly surprised, especially his parents.
“They’d never seen me actually put effort into something,” Hoel said. “I don’t even know why I did, but I won the race. … I took pride in it. It was the only thing I was really good at,” he added, again smiling.
Watching Simon Whitfield, Canada’s Olympic champion, was also a turning point. Of course, he wasn’t alive when Whitfield won gold for Canada at the Sydney Games in 2000. Hoel got a firsthand look at Whitfield competing in Kelowna in 2009.
He realized then triathlon would win out over hockey.
“I was like, ‘this might actually be something I want to do instead of hockey.’”
It was a good choice.
In less than a month, Hoel should be in Lausanne, Switzerland, competing at the World Triathlon Championships.
He’s headed there as Canadian junior champion, a title he won at this year’s Apple Triathlon in Kelowna.
The Apple doubled as the national final.
But that’s not the only accolade Hoel has won this season. On May 3 in Monterrey, Mexico, he won the Pan American junior triathlon championship.
He just returned from Magog, Que., where he finished fourth, his best finish in an elite CAMTRI race series.
His time in Quebec — 53 minutes 54.8 seconds — was good enough for fourth overall, by the way. He was the youngest entrant in the top 20.
You can add another top-five finish from a race in Montreal in late June.
Hoel credits his endurance with helping him outlast his competitors in Magog. Many of the elite men had been racing against each other for a month straight.
“By the third race, we’re all pretty tired,” he said. “I think that’s, maybe, one of the reasons why I was able to pull through. I was happy with it.”
Not a bad year by any stretch of the imagination.
He says this has been a breakthrough season, and credits coach Luke Way at Balance Point Racing with guiding him on the right path.
Way’s philosophy was to focus on building endurance until Hoel’s frame was ready for a more complex regimen.
“I’m getting older and I can handle a little bit more,” Hoel said. “My endurance is there. It’s great for me to see when we start adding the speed in my training a little bit. This year’s been a breakthrough for me, so it’s great to see that all of my training has paid off in the last four years.”
The hard work isn’t just running, swimming and biking. Hoel just completed high school, works at a local bike shop and in construction to help fund his travels.
“It’s tiring sometimes,” Hoel said. “I definitely have people around me to motivate me, but I have to just tell myself, this is what I have to do to get where I want to be. It comes with it.”
Where does he want to be? Atop the Olympic podium would be nice.
“I’d like to win a World Championship and the Olympics as well. I always say, ‘I never race for the silver medal,’ so Olympic gold is the goal.”
Failing that — and it seems like a bad idea to bet against him — he will likely dabble in university classes as his training continues.
He might consider physiotherapy or something “sports related.”
He will stay in the Okanagan, though. His brother Lincoln and sister Janae are also involved in triathlon. The community is one of the most supportive in Canada, he said.
“You can barely ride five minutes without running into another cyclist. It’s such a triathlon community,” Hoel said.
“I would say, to be honest, I think we have the best training program that, personally, I’ve seen anywhere.
“It’s working great for me.”
Email email@example.com. Follow @da_trif on Twitter.