Watching Simon Whitfield win gold for Canada at the 2000 Olympics was a life-changing experience for New Glasgow’s Michelle Zunti.
It’s because of him and his accomplishments, she was inspired to learn how to swim and begin competing in triathlons herself starting in 2001.
It’s also why she was able to represent Canada herself at the Age Group Triathlon World Championships in Belfort, France, earlier this month. Zunti had qualified for the event by finishing third overall at a triathlon in Dartmouth.
At the World Championship, Zunti represented Canada well and finished 12th in the women’s 40-44 age group out of a group of 33 of the top triathletes from around the world. In total there were more than 1,000 athletes from 32 countries who took part.
Zunti said it was an incredible experience to get to compete although there were some unexpected turns of events that took place.
Because of poor weather the swim portion of the triathlon was actually cut out turning the race into a biathlon.
“One thing you learn after doing triathlons is that you have to be adaptable as you never know what the weather is going to throw at you,” she said. “I've raced in 42 degree heat and torrential downpours. You just have to adapt on race day and modify your expectations accordingly. Some days are good, some days are bad, but thankfully I had a great day.
She said that portion being cancelled was a bit of a disappointment after all the swim training, but since she is a stronger runner than swimmer it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
She said it was a very challenging and technical course, but one with beautiful scenery that led participants up and down hills and through little French villages.
“The toughest part was a climb up the Ballon d' Alsace,” she said. “Although I made the most gains here as I must have passed about 75 people on the ascent.”
Crossing the finish line is always a great feeling and this race was no exception for Zunti.
“It was fun,” she said. “It was probably one of the most enjoyable races I’ve ever been in.”
She said that she’d love to compete in a world championship again.
“I was very proud to cross the finish line and to be representing Canada. It truly was an amazing experience,” she said.
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