Professional triathlete Sarah Haskins is close to full strength nine months after giving birth to a girl and should be a strong contender in Sunday's St. Anthony's Triathlon.
In 2012, Haskins sailed to an easy victory in the St. Petersburg race, finishing the Olympic-distance triathlon in 1 hour, 56 minutes, 55 seconds to shatter the course record by 50 seconds. It was her fourth victory in five years.
"I stopped running when I was six months pregnant but kept riding on a trainer and swimming right up until the end," said the 33-year-old from Clermont. "I was able to get back into easy training after a few weeks and close to full form after four or five months."
Haskins sat out last year's race and cheered on her training partner Alicia Kaye, who won the women's field in 1:57:10.
"I'm really excited to be competing again," said Haskins, who has won her past three races, including the Life Time Tri South Beach on April 6. "I'm not where I have been in the past, but I am close. I'm in pretty good shape."
Haskins said she gets questions from fans and fellow competitors alike regarding her pregnancy and athletic career.
"They wonder how do you do it," she said. "You just have to take care of yourself."
Haskins said she expects a strong showing from Kaye, also from Clermont. "She is always strong," Haskins said.
The Olympic-distance triathlon (1.5-kilometer swim, 40-kilometer bike, 10-kilometer run) is the season opener for the professional circuit, and many top athletes use it as an opportunity to size up the competition.
Other top women expected to compete include Laura Bennett, a former world champion who represented the United States at the 2008 and the 2012 Olympics; Mirinda Carfrae, the 2013 Ironman world champion; Sara McLarty, another Clermont resident and the 2010 Race to the Toyota Cup series champion, and Canadian Sara Gross, the runnerup at the 2013 Ironman Brazil.
In the men's field, 2013 champion Jan Frodeno, the gold-medal winner at the 2008 Olympics who came from behind last year to win in 1:45:07, will not be at the starting line. Neither will Filip Ospaly, a three-time Olympian who won St. Anthony's in 2011 and 2012.
Greg Bennett, a world champion and Olympian from Boulder, Colo., who finished second at the Life Time Tri Miami this month, finished fifth in St. Petersburg last year and is always near the front of the pack. Cameron Dye, another Colorado athlete, finished in the top 10 last year.
What/where: Approximately 3,500 athletes and 125 relay teams; St. Petersburg.
Today: 20th annual Meek & Mighty Triathlon starts at North Shore Pool, 901 North Shore Drive, with the first swim wave at 7:30 a.m. Ages 7 to 10 compete in 100-yard swim, 3.6-mile bike ride and half-mile run. Ages 11 to 14 and novice adults compete in 200-yard swim, 5.4-mile bike ride and 1-mile run.
Sunday: St. Anthony's Triathlon, at North Shore and Vinoy parks, season opener for professional circuit. International-distance race (1.5-kilometer swim, 40-kilometer bike, 10-kilometer run), 6:50 a.m. start time; sprint-distance race (750-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike, 5-kilometer run), approximately 8:45 a.m. start time.
Sports Expo: Straub Park, 500 Beach Drive; 9 a.m.-7 p.m. today. Admission is free.
More info: satriathlon.com