The start of the 2017 season for 19 year old Erica Hawley could not have been better. In March of this year Erica took  a silver medal at the Central American and Caribbean Junior Elite Triathlon Championships and followed that up by narrowly missing out on a bronze medal at the North American Triathlon Championships, finishing 4th. Full of confidence Erica then went on to win the US Collegiate National Triathlon Championships in her freshman year and was looking forward to the summer break when she would be based in Banyoles Spain with her team in training and racing in the very competitive European Cup Junior Elite Series.

But life can throw up some horrible moments. It all started with the tragic death in a bike accident of her close friend and fellow junior triathlete in Boulder, 19 year old Brazilian Alessandro Zarzur. Despite the emotional impact Erica suffered, she was determined to continue with her racing and training whilst working to honour her friend’s memory with a series of initiatives in his name.

Training in Banyoles Spain went very well and as Erica learnt to cope with her emotions after the loss of her friend she prepared to race in Austria in her first Junior European Cup race. But then misfortune hit as she took a tumble on her bike whilst previewing the course and ended up with a shoulder injury that put her out of the race.

Erica returned to Banyoles and received intensive treatment on her shoulder. Although not 100% she lined up two weeks later in Holten, Netherlands for the next European Cup Series event. However, her shoulder was too painful and she came out of the water too far back to stay with the lead cyclists, something she has been able to do this season. To cap it all Erica suffered a broken gear cable early on the bike that left her in her biggest gear and having to cope with climbing the hill on the course in that gear. She put in a gutsy performance to finish 27th with a solid run.

Erica then returned to Banyoles to heal and prepare for the Pan American Championships today ( Saturday 15th July 2017) in Magog, Canada aiming to qualify for the ITU Junior Elite Triathlon World Championships ( her last junior elite world championships) in Rotterdam, Holland in September.

But, bad luck (and also a guardian angel) followed her  as she was hit by a careless driver who entered a roundabout that Erica was on and went straight into her. Somehow Erica managed to escape with just road rash and severe bruising even though her bike was broken in two pieces and the front wheel totally mangled. The accident did however aggravate her shoulder injury

As a result Erica withdrew from today’s race in Magog and must now hope that her application for a wild card entry into the World Championships is accepted.

I met with Erica this week and the Digicel sponsored athlete was surprisingly upbeat and determined to come back even stronger as she anxiously awaits a decision on her wild card entry application. She leaves in a week’s time to train with two junior team mates in Slovenia and has scheduled a junior race in Sweden and possibly another race in preparation for Worlds. She is back in the pool and full of cautious optimism that she will be fully ready and able to line up at the World Championships where a good result would be a good ending to a season which promised so much but which got derailled by tragedy and unfortunate mishaps. I am sure that Erica will be stronger for these experiences however unwanted and tragic they were and I give her great credit for  her remarkable resilience and determination in the face of such physical and emotional challenges.

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