Athlete Profile: Shelby MacDonald - A Worlds Class Triathlete

The triathlon world is abuzz at the moment – of course – with the upcoming ITU Multisport World Championships Festival.  The Worlds take place in Penticton this year, providing a unique opportunity for local qualifying athletes.  Not only is there a local sense of pride in participating in the Worlds, it is nearby and more accessible to local athletes. 

A number of TriStars have qualified for Worlds and will participate bearing the Canadian uniform.  One of these athletes is 25-29 Male Age Group athlete Shelby MacDonald.  He is one of seven athletes who will represent Canada in his age group in the long course at Worlds.  On August 27, Shelby will wear the maple leaf and represent Canada competing against some of the best athletes in the world.  Shelby is most looking forward to representing his country.

Shelby qualified for Worlds last summer at Challenge Penticton.  This was a remarkable feat, considering that he didn’t delve into the world of triathlon until 2015.  Shelby started cycling in 2011, competing in his first Gran Fondo.  The next year he began running, competing in a 10km.  He figured that swimming wouldn’t be too hard to add, as he was already doing so well at the other two sports.  Little did he know that swimming would prove to be the most difficult sport for him and provide him with the biggest challenge.  It wasn’t a strong sport for him as a child, and developing swimming skills came to him with practice, not naturally.  Today, Shelby is proud to say that he is a capable swimmer because of a lot of hard work and dedicated practice.

During Challenge Penticton in 2016, Shelby suffered a panic attack because of the mass start.  A familiar and scary story for many triathletes, he was packed into a group and couldn’t find clear water to swim.  About 100m into the swim, he doubted his ability to even finish the swim.  He told himself to swim just to the next buoy and decide if he could go on.  He repeated that throughout the swim, finishing it in a mental victory.  After surviving the swim, Shelby’s bike and run legs went well.  To his surprise, he heard Steve King announce over the loudspeaker that this could be a podium finish.  Shelby thought this was a mistake until the actual ceremony when his name was called.  He placed third in his very tough age group.

Shelby has been training for an Ironman.  He feels like, if anything, he will have overtrained for the race at Worlds.  He worries a bit about injury pulling him from the race, but mostly he just wants to enjoy the experience.  Since starting his triathlon career, Shelby has come to realize that his goal really is to just enjoy the sport.  And what a venue to enjoy it in!

When asked what motivates this highly talented athlete, Shelby says it’s the people around him.  He enjoys seeing people accomplish new feats, like their first open water swim or long ride.  He is inspired when people move outside of their comfort zones to better themselves.  He enjoys seeing people accomplish something they didn’t think they could.

Shelby’s list of mentors is incredibly long.  It includes many people from the TriStars family like Chris Siver, Merv Child, Saskia Bjornson, Christopher Mavrikos, and Kathryn Deegan.  He lists qualities in them like humour, determination, kindness, patience, and persistence.  The wonderful thing about his mentors is that the qualities he lists move beyond the sport.  He admires these qualities in their ability to help each other and the community.

What’s next for Shelby?  After Worlds, Shelby will leave his trade of carpentry to return to school.  He will also continue to train for an Ironman.  We wish Shelby the best of luck on both fronts.  Thanks for representing TriStars at Worlds!