Sophie Corbidge and Nicole van der KaaySophie Corbidge and Nicole van der Kaay
(Photo: Tri NZ; click to enlarge)

Sophie Corbidge is by default one of the most positive people you will meet but there have been days over recent months when even she wondered if a return to the top level of the sport she loves was possible as she battled to overcome long term health problems that threatened to derail her career in top flight triathlon.

It is understandable then that Corbidge was delighted to simply be back racing today and even more delighted with a 20th place finish in a high quality field at the first ever ITU Montreal World Cup race, a result made all the better by sharing it with good friend and training mate Nicole van der Kaay who finished one spot back in 21st.

“Today’s race saw a very strong field, with several athletes in the race heading to Rio shortly for the Olympics,” said Corbidge. “It was important to me to set realistic goals for the race, with the main goal of enjoying being back on the ITU circuit, and focusing on the ‘controllables’.

“It was important to me personally to have a good ride, because I have been training well on the bike, and it is definitely a strength of mine. I was very happy to execute this well, as I worked hard in a small breakaway bunch (just myself and my American friend Erin Jones), trying hard to chase down the front pack. It was this effort that ended up making my run very tough, because I burnt a lot of matches out on the challenging bike course!

“That being said, I was very happy to be out there again in a world class field, holding my own and gaining valuable experience for the upcoming races. Having my training pal Nicole there by my side was a bonus too! The day was hot and the wind was gusty, making for some interesting race conditions, but it was a very cool course with amazing crowds in downtown Montreal.”

22 year old Corbidge is delighted to be able to reflect with some positivity on a difficult time in her career and to focus her attention on races in the future, not on whether she will be healthy enough to race them.

“It was a pretty emotional day for me, because it's my first race back since July 2015. It all started when I had to come home early from my overseas trip last year, I took three months off from February to April to sort out some long term health problems. I just really needed time away from the sport, to regain my health and wellbeing as an athlete and person.

“I started back gradually into training on 1st May, and slowly built up my training load until it reached a good level. I would normally introduce myself back into racing with some local, low-key events, but because it is winter in New Zealand, there were limited race options.

“I will now be aiming for the ITU World Series event in Edmonton, and hopefully some races in Tahiti and Tongyeong later this year. The big goal for me will be the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018, so all these races are important stepping stones now.”

For fellow Tri NZ High Performance Squad member van der Kaay the race was further opportunity to gain vital international experience in what was her first race at this level outside of Oceania.

The race was won by Rio-bound Flora Duffy (Bermuda), ahead of Ashleigh Gentle (Australia) and Taylor Knibb (USA).