Econ and finance grad blazes trail to Rio 2016

When we last heard from Sarah-Anne Brault in the 2012-2013 academic year, she was just about to graduate with a 4.0 GPA, earning dual degrees in economics and finance from the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics. So, what has the two-time WVU Student Athlete of the Week been up to since then? You know, just tirelessly preparing for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.

With her bright red hair and high energy, you won’t be able to miss her even as she runs, bikes or swims by on your television in the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, competing on the Canadian Olympic Triathlon team. Read more about Brault’s road to the Olympics in her Q&A below.

What have you been up to since graduating from B&E?

As soon as I graduated in May 2013, I went to Spain and started training full time for triathlon. I found I quite enjoyed it, so I haven’t really done much other than a lot of swim-bike-run since then. I’ve had the chance to be based in Australia and Spain for the better part of the year, and spend about three months each year back in my home country of Canada.

How did you get into competing in triathlons?

I was a swimmer first. I then started running a little bit in high school. It wasn’t long before a triathlon coach noticed some of my results, and he lured me in with the promise of races in faraway places and new challenges, such as learning to ride a bike while clipped into the pedals, a few inches from other people who are also clipped into their pedals. I had success relatively quickly and I also really enjoyed the variety that the training brought, so I kept at it.

How did you feel after earning your spot on Team Canada?

It was a mix of pure happiness, relief and pride. It’s been a long journey.

Do you consider making the Olympic team to be your greatest accomplishment in life so far?

It’s a great honor to be able to represent my country regularly on the international stage, and there is no bigger stage than the Olympics, so in that sense I do think it is one of my biggest accomplishments. However, I see certain challenges that I’ve overcome, such as coming back from injury, or performing in a particular race when I wasn’t expecting to do anything noteworthy. Those small victories are very concrete to me, although it’s the sum of those that led to my qualifying for the Olympics.

How are you preparing to compete in Rio 2016?

I feel like I’ve been getting ready for the Olympics for the past three years, and I’ve spent my whole life to get where I am now! We had the opportunity to race on the course they will be using for the Olympics in 2015, and practice the routine of the travel, jetlag and preparation on the ground. In terms of training, we’ve been doing quite a few hilly sessions on the bike, as the course in Rio will feature a nasty +20% climb that we’ll be doing eight times. We also have to make sure that the swim and run are really up to par, but that’s nothing new!

What is going through your mind when you are competing in a triathlon?

We typically race for two hours, which can feel like an eternity at the time! I usually have to be very diligent about ‘staying in the moment’ and focusing on the part of the triathlon I am in. If I’m trying to get around the second buoy and all of a sudden I think about the first part of the run, I’ll probably panic and the swim won’t go very well. By now, I know most of the girls I race against fairly well, so I’m able to judge how well I’m doing compared to them as the race progresses.

What is next for you after competing in the Olympics?

After Rio, I’ll probably try to race a few more races, we still have a world championship in September and then I’ll take a bit of time off triathlon and all that as I haven’t had much freedom for the past few years. I’d love to go hiking in Chile with my former roommate, and visit some friends, maybe at WVU! I’ll have to see after if I want to commit for another 4 years and aim for Tokyo in 2020.

What do you miss most about WVU and B&E?

I do miss the regular schedule of going to class and seeing the same faces every day. I miss the crosswords from the newspaper and I miss the challenge of really nailing a test with difficult material. I miss Mr. [Frank] DeGeorge’s life lessons and the first day of class when you don’t know what to expect!

When you enter the workforce, what would you like to do? How will you use the skills you gained from your two B&E undergraduate degrees?

I’m not sure exactly what I would want to do. I really enjoyed the security analysis and valuation side of the finance industry, but I’ve never had a real job, so that thought is definitely a little daunting! I do know I have a great variety of knowledge I gained from my five years at WVU that I’m eager to apply someday. I’ll most likely try to get a master’s degree; I do miss school and the different challenges every day brought.