If you’ve been paying attention to my weekly articles, you know by now that I’m a) a huge fan of ITU racing, and b) a huge Canadian. #Sworry. So, imagine my childish glee when I got to sit down across the eterview table from Kyle Jones, 2012 Canadian Olympian and 3-time Canadian champion.
I first heard of Kyle from an absolutely effervescent Barrie Shepley in 2003, as he told spectators of a junior who “ran just like Simon”. After shrugging it off as overenthusiasm, I learned never to question Barrie – Kyle came flying down the finish chute of a sprint triathlon looking like he was running a 400m. Since then, Kyle has been a cornerstone of the Canadian ITU program. He overcame a weaker swimming background so he could race with the big boys, trains with some of the best athletes and coaches in the world, and in 2015 he came roaring back from injury to grab silver and bronze in the Cozumel and Alanya World Cups.
With run speed that matches up with the best in the WTS, and a work ethic like a British Columbia lumberjack, Kyle Jones is poised to do great things in 2016 and beyond. Get to know him today, and join me in cheering him on in Rio.
Interview with Kyle Jones, 2012 Olympian and Rio hopeful
OK that got autocorrected from ‘Hola Kyle’, but given your finish to 2015 it seemed appropriate. Congrats on the World Cup silver/bronze finish to your season. Are you feeling fully recovered from last year’s accident, as you dig into a big block of training in Fuerteventura?
Thanks Aaron! It was certainly a nice way to finish the season given all the issues I had early on. Last year at this time I was still recovering from surgery, so my body was a bit of a mess. Then just as I was starting to get back to form I had the accident and fractured my sacrum. That really set things back. It took a great deal of patience and rehab but I am fully recovered now and it’s been awesome to have a proper winter training block. We got started December 1st here in Fuerteventura so we’re right in the thick of it now and everything is rolling along nicely. I feel like an entirely different athlete physically and looking forward to the start of the 2016 season.
Last time I saw you, you were a happy-go-lucky 28-year-old without a care in the world. Now at 31, you’re a grizzled ITU veteran, husband, and proud dad to Zack. Be honest – when you saw that even I could keep two children alive for an afternoon, was that the last straw in convincing you to have a family? How has fatherhood affected your training and career – do you draw a lot of inspiration and/or perspective from it, or do you find Triathlete Kyle often at odds with Daddy Kyle?
My wife, Kelly, and I have always wanted to start a family. She has also been working towards some big goals of her own becoming a doctor over the past few years. The timing worked out really well halfway through her residency and we had Zack! Fatherhood has been amazing. We feel very lucky to have a happy and healthy young boy. The biggest change so far has been the perspective it’s brought to our lives. No matter what’s going on in our respective careers, nothing compares to the simple joy he brings us. Being sidelined last year allowed me to spend a lot more time with him which was nice. Now that I’m away it’s definitely hard at times but I’ve been able to draw so much inspiration. It’s a big commitment to be on camp, away from my family for months at a time. I can assure you I’m not lacking any motivation. Any time training gets tough I remind myself of the the sacrifice I’ve made. It’s a choice and I want to make the most of it. I tend to look at it as a future lesson for him too. Emphasizing the importance of setting goals and the commitment necessary to achieve them. We’re talking about the Olympic Games. If it was easy everyone would do it. I hope Zack can look back at this time and be inspired by it too.
You beat Simon for the first time at the Edmonton World Cup in 2011 [Kyle was 4th; Simon 6th] – and in fact, you were the first Canadian in 10 years to have beaten him. Which of the following was greater?
- the inner rage that Simon had to bury deep in his hyper-competitive-but-still-
- your annoyance (also stifled, in true Canadian fashion) over being asked incessantly about beating Simon, instead of talking about your 4th place finish at a World Cup
Question 3 and we’re already talking about Simon, I thought those days were behind me! I’ve been asked countless times over the years about what it’s like to be in his shadow, but to be honest I never saw it that way. Simon is a legend in our sport and I had the unique opportunity to meet and train with him at a young age. I learned a tremendous amount from him. It wasn’t always easy. We definitely had a few blowouts over the years, but it came with the territory. His relentless approach created a competitive and demanding environment. I witnessed many people (athletes and staff) come and go over the years. I didn’t always agree with him but I fed off it as well. Being “top Canadian” doesn’t drive me. I’m sure in the future I’ll look back at some of my accomplishments like National Championships and be proud, but my ultimate goal is to be one of the best in the world at what I do. Beating Simon was significant not because I was the best Canadian but because he represented a much higher standard that I was striving for and continue to strive for.
You’ve been working with Joel Filliol since 2011, if my research is correct. How does training with Joel’s squad compare to the old National Triathlon Centre formula? Specifically, do you guys do most of your workouts together, just a couple key workouts per week, or something in between? Do you miss the team environment when you’re all off on your own, or do you relish the solitude of doing your own thing sometimes?
Joel and I actually first started working together in 2006 in the lead up to Beijing and then reconnected in 2011 after Joel stepped down from his role at British Triathlon. Not too much has changed over the years, the focus on consistent hard work still applies. JFT as Joel likes to put it. The squad has grown in numbers over the past couple years. For all of the swims and a few of the key bike/run sessions each week we’re all together, but for the most part smaller groups form. There’s always someone to head out the door with or the option to go alone if that’s what you prefer. I tend to do all my training with others on camp and then when I’m at home I enjoy the time to myself. It’s a nice balance.
Please name your favourite person on the JFT squad. Don’t worry, none of them read our website anyway and you can be 100% honest. I’ll go first: my favourite was Tommy Z, but he never favs my tweets anymore. Now I’m leaning towards Richard Murray, because I read that book “The Power Of One” and it was neat.
We have an amazing squad. Everyone gets along well and it’s always a fun atmosphere. It really is a pleasure to be apart of. We have some new additions this year and I believe it’s strengthened the group even more. Both Tommy and Richard are a blast. Both full of energy and always cracking jokes. But if I had to choose just one favourite it would have to be Mario. He’s someone I really admire. Just an all around great guy. He’s the kind of person who would literally give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. We first met in Clermont in 2013 and immediately got along really well. Anytime we’re on camp we basically do all of our training together so we’ve shared a good chunk of time over the years. We have similar interests outside of the sport as well so I think that strengthens our friendship.
For us ITU outsiders, how would you rate your chances of a) going to Rio, and b) winning a medal? FYI, I happen to think you can do both. What will you have to do this season to qualify?
Self belief is everything, so I like my chances. Becoming an Olympian in 2012 was a huge moment. It really was the realization of a life long dream. Having said that, I wasn’t entirely happy with my performance in London and the last four years have been all about getting back to the Olympics and delivering a performance I’m proud of. We have a few selection races coming up with the start of the WTS series and I believe I’m capable of solidifying my spot on the team. In terms of a medal, at this point there’s only a handful of athletes in my mind that have demonstrated the ability to consistently achieve podium performances. Outside of that select group I would say there’s another larger group in the mix for a top 12. Realistically that’s where I see myself right now. Everyday is about challenging myself and getting the most out of my body. For now I’m entirely focused on the preparation and we’ll see where that puts me come Rio.
Finally, what’s next after 2016? More ITU, stepping down to long distance racing, retirement? Maybe some stand-up paddleboarding? (HA HA HA just kidding no serious athlete gets into SUP)
Stepping down, I like that haha. Your words, not mine. Right now I’m committed to Rio and the 2016 WTS series that will conclude in Cozumel with the Grand Final in October. Beyond that we’ll see!
Thank you so much for this, Kyle. All the best to you and your family, and good luck in 2016. Please feel free to mention any sponsors, without whom none of this would be possible.
No worries, it was my pleasure. I like your interview style! Yes, a big thank you to Asics Canada, PowerBar Canada and Cervelo for all their support. Without them I really wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing!