No one can say Cameron McKnight is afraid of a challenge.
Last year, at age 15, the St. Clements native completed a 12.5-mile swim around Key West in Florida, placing second in the race.
This year, he decided to tackle the Guelph Lake triathlon with only a week of training. McKnight was the youngest competitor there; he finished first in his class – not tough in a category of one – and an impressive 32nd overall.
This is only McKnight’s sixth year of swimming. He joined the Region of Waterloo Swim Club (ROW), where his mother and aunt both swam, looking to get fit. He wasn‘t the most graceful swimmer when he first plunged in, but McKnight soon discovered he loved competing. Within two years, he had worked his way up from the lowest rung at ROW to the third highest level.
“I like the determination that it takes to go every day,” McKnight said. “It’s a challenge just to go every morning. You feel you’ve accomplished something.”
McKnight prefers distance swimming, so the 1,500-metre swim that started the triathlon wasn’t a problem. Running is a component of his dry-land training, but the biking was a bit more of a challenge, and there wasn’t a lot of time to train between finishing exams and the start of the race just a week later.
“The bike really hurt,” McKnight said ruefully. “Forty kilometres wasn’t exactly what I was ready for.”
He was also surprised to find so few competitors his age; most of the triathletes there were in their 30s and 40s, with more than a decade of training under their belts.
He’ll be better prepared next time; McKnight is racing three more triathlons in the Subaru triathlon series this summer. On top of practicing nine times a week with ROW, he bikes four nights a week and goes running every night if he can.
He also works part time at his family’s car dealership, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for much else beyond eating and sleeping.
McKnight’s family owns Gemini Motors, the Subaru dealership in Kitchener. The dealership is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, so McKnight decided to represent the family business in the triathlon.
Now going into Grade 12 at St. David Catholic Secondary School, McKnight is looking ahead to studying for a science degree at the University of Waterloo. He’s hoping to pick up an athletic scholarship, but with an average in the 90s, an academic scholarship could also be on the books.
McKnight wants to stay close to home to continue swimming with ROW and working with coaches Dean Boles and Nandi Kormendi. He also wants to stay close to his family, which is his support system.
“If I left, to not have that support any more would really jeopardize my swimming,” he said.
Still further in the future is the dream of swimming in the 2012 Olympics in London.