Port Elgin resident and Bruce Power firefighter RJ (Robert James) Ross, 41, swam, biked and ran into the medals as a 40+ competitor at the World Police and Fire Games in China in August.
The Games, open to all law enforcement officers and professional firefighters as well as retired officers, are staged every two years, and attract thousands of competitors from up to 80 countries to contest 54+ sports.
Representing Canada Atomic Energy, Ross had a convincing win in the triathlon, an event where speed meets endurance in three continuous and sequential events of swimming 750m, biking 20k, and a 5k run. His total winning time of 01:00:16:67 was almost three-and-a-half minutes ahead of the second place Russian competitor.
Ross also competed in three pool events, earning second place finishes in the 800m and 1,500m events, and a fifth in the 400m swim.
Along with the jetlag, Ross said the heat – 40 degree plus temperatures on day three – was hard on competitors and forced officials to reduce the run to a sprint distance.
He said the best part of the Games, for him, was the camaraderie between competitors after the competitions – the spirit of people who love and respect the sport. Ross takes his role as “somewhat of an ambassador” for Canada, Port Elgin and Atomic Energy Canada, seriously.
Triathlon is a passion, a way of life, for Ross who plans holidays and training around competitions and tries to compete in two or three events annually. Regular training keeps him at a fitness level that he can ramp up to a race pace scenario prior to competitions.
Ross said when not training for an event he’s not a couch potato because he typically feels like training every day as he’s “intrinsically motivated” to work hard.
“Every day is an opportunity – I don’t want to look back when I’m 80 and say “what if?’ I try to make that approach a habit and a practice – it’s not without its challenges, but [it] has definite rewards,” Ross said.
Including having fun and meeting like-minded people, training and competing is an investment in his health and longevity, Ross said.
Ross does not have a favourite, or least favourite, triathlon event as they all have “equal distinguished pain.”
“This sport is a testament to suffering – you go for as far as you can as fast as you can,” Ross said, adding it can also be a forgiving sport as he can hop on his bike if his back hurt.
While no a “couch potato” when not competing, Ross tries to make exercise a practice and a habit as it helps prevent and recover from injuries.
“Triathlon requires a positive attitude – you’ve got to look inside yourself and surround yourself with positive thoughts as the mental aspect of the sports is key to success.”
While Ross’ competitive season is over, the training continues. A second place overall finish, and first place in his age group at a recent qualifier, earned him an invitation to compete as an amateur on the Canadian team at the National triathlon competition next year in Edmonton.
“As long as I know I put it all out there – I can rest my head at night.”
While triathlons are a passion, Ross said he also enjoys playing guitar, heli-skiing, travelling and owning a 1966 Ford Galaxy – the same car that brought he and his siblings home from hospital.