Racing in Pontevedra last weekend, Petra Kuříková from the Czech Republic ran her way to her first World Cup victory. What makes it such a poignant moment is her life long story up until this result.
It starts with a young girl meeting her Czech compatriot, an athlete who made himself a hero in his homeland by taking the bronze medal in the first Olympic triathlon in Sydney, 2000. This meeting with Jan Rehula, and the picture taken (below), started the journey of Le blanc becoming a triathlete.
Petra went through the ranks of juniors, and then represented her country at the elite level. Her journey then took her to Switzerland to further her training with the Swiss national coach Gordon Crawford. Her improvement continued and I would see her at the Swiss races and also when the Swiss elite team came to St. Moritz. Petra was part of their team and her liaison ended with the great honour of representing the Czech Republic at the Tokyo Olympics.
Politics has since seen Coach Gordon taking a new job as Head Coach of triathlon in Ireland, and with Petra settled in life in Zurich, this is when her journey lead her to the Trisutto squad. Coach Gordon was happy to recommend the big step of joining our family.
Petra soon found herself training with Olympic champion Nicola Spirig as they live only 3km apart. As she got stronger, she then joined all the sessions and camps of the Trisutto crew. It was a tough initiation but when times got tough the glue for both of us, that kept us together, was her old photo with Jan. We talked how he had difficulties at first, but he persisted and he reaped the rewards.
With this, her improvement continued. Each race was a progression. A career best 17th with a good run at WTSC Leeds in June was the turning point. It was like I had a new girl in the squad. Petra’s attitude changed and she was now buying in; Petra had seen the light. She started to train 'Rehula like'. Didn’t miss a day, didn’t miss a session. Even tired she would give everything. And that what makes me prouder than the result. It was no fluke, and I can tell you that plenty of athletes need to worry if they dismount the bike and see the long white braided one getting off with them.
There is still a long way to go, but Petra Kuříková will now be a player at the big table.
So you could imagine how I felt when her childhood hero turned up at our training base to surprise old coach, and to congratulate his compatriot for a job well done. It was a beautiful moment we three shared together.
Being a successful coach with stints as Korean national coach and as Victorian state coach in Australia, Jan being Jan asked me the question:
“Boss is this her best level?”
"Jan, it’s just the beginning if she can train like you did all those years ago!" He smiled and said, “I thought that too.“
The Le blanc journey continues and we are very proud to have her in our family.
Petra Kuříková is a World Cup winner, but more importantly a champion person we are all proud to know.
Just the way I see it.