By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large
Skeptics still not convinced of Welland International Flatwater Centre’s importance to the city should drop in on events it hosts so they can become believers. We need more believers.
One such example is MultiSport Canada’s Rose City (Welland) Triathlon, held Saturday, June 23 and Sunday, June 24.
It’s not the first time Welland’s showpiece watersport venue has hosted the triathlon nor will it be the last, I believe it is safe to say. For a swim, run, bike competition, it is one of the best there is. Event organizers, race officials and athletes alike sang its praises, this weekend and in previous years.
This was no small production. More than 1,100 competitors were here over the two days. They came from across Niagara of course but also from afar: Montreal, Buffalo, Toronto, Ottawa, Syracuse and Windsor to name but a few. Together, the venue and the event are giving Welland name recognition outside the region, heightening its profile and making it a destination of choice for this growing segment of the sports community.
For background purposes, Saturday’s competition, attracting 410 competitors, was the long course triathlon: 2k swim, 56k bike course, and 15k run. Sunday’s, which attracted about 700, was the sprint triathlon: 800m swim, 5k run, 20k bike, also a duathlon, run-bike-run and a ‘Give-it-a-tri’ for beginners who want to try a triathlon and get the feel for it before doing a regular one.
Part of the “glue” that holds this massive team effort together is the volunteer corps assembled for it, almost entirely local folks. Give the credit and a pat on the back to Wellanders Ron and Lynda Lemon who, through their vast network of contacts in the sports community and beyond, recruit scores of volunteers, many of whom return year after year. Saturday’s event, for example, required about 85 volunteers to ensure things ran smoothly. And they did.
Volunteers will certainly be in agreement on this: triathletes are among the most appreciative people one could hope to meet. It’s not unusual for them to say “Thanks for volunteering!” or “Thanks for giving up your time to be here!” as they meet you on the course. Little wonder so many people are happy to volunteer. This is just a little aside that needed to be said.
Our flatwater centre represents a substantial infrastructure investment by the community and by now it should be clear that the risk and the gamble were well worth it. It has hosted various local and national competitions as well as international games. Welland would not have been a Pan American Games venue were it not for the flatwater centre, nor, likely would it be hosting the Canadian Dragon Boat Championships this coming weekend and the ICF Canoe Polo World Championships July 31 – August 5. These are in addition to the many other events in spring, summer and fall making grand use of the WIFC north, south and waterway courses.
The flatwater centre and the attractions it brings to town are making Welland’s name known far and wide. We have a proven winner on our hands in terms of helping the community transition from the little to the bigs. The best is yet to come, I dare say. Believe it.