For Cheshire teenager Julia Shatalov, there is an adrenaline rush in the minutes before starting a triathlon in the water. Before transitioning into a bike ride and a run, she often lines up against a wall with other athletes for the swim portion
After hearing officials say “On your mark …” and then sounding a horn, Shatalov knows that the chase has begun.
“You feel the tension in your mind. It (the start) is these massive amount of bodies going for one point in the water,” explained Shatalov, who likes to uses her swim experience to get off to a fast start. “I’m able to get out in front and (then) it is smooth sailing from there.”
This year, she is excited to have the chance to display her versatile skill abroad. Shatalov has been invited to compete in the World Triathlon Sprint & Relay Championships to be held Oct. 15-17 in Hamilton, Bermuda.
On Oct. 16, Shatalov will participate in a 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike ride, and 5-kilometer run as part of the Age-Group Sprint Championship.
“It hasn’t set in yet that I’m going to go to (the) Worlds (event),” said Shatalov, a 2021 Cheshire Academy graduate. “I know that I still have more to achieve.”
Two days before her competition, she looks forward to seeing representatives from around the world participate in the Walk of Nations.
“I’ve already started asking around to find out who is going,” stated Shatalov.
To qualify for this competition, she placed third in her division in the USA Triathlon Age Group Draft-Legal World Qualifier on May 2 in Richmond, Virginia. Due to many events having been canceled or postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, Shatalov hadn’t previously competed since 2019.
“There were a lot of nerves. I wasn’t sure if I would still have certain skills,” recalled Shatalov. “There is always something (that happens) on race day. You don’t know how things will come together.”
Shatalov was slotted in the women’s 15-19 age division, but for races, athletes of all ages started out together. The waves were limited to 80 competitors at a time.
“It was really good to see people again,” reflected Shatalov.
On race day, her nerves went away after she completed the swim portion in the top group.
“I used my energy to finish the race,” said Shatalov. “I felt really strong.”
She was pleasantly surprised to finish on the medal podium. At the end of her race, Shatalov knew that she had earned a spot in the world championship, but she was officially invited through an email on May 8.
“I want to enjoy the fact that I’ve made it to that level,” stated Shatalov.
She started doing triathlons seven years ago. As a youngster, she signed up for the Cheshire Parks and Recreation Triathlon Camp.
“I wanted to branch out and try a new sport,” said Shatalov, who started swimming in second grade. “I had no idea that I would be here (world qualifier) when I started. I thought that this would be something I just phased in and out of (in my life).”
In joining the Nutmeg Youth Triathlon Team, she has developed her skills and met many friends.
Local resident Doug Levens, who found the summer triathlon camp in Cheshire, also runs NYT and coaches Shatalov.
“He knows my history as a racer, so that allows him to keep my training on track,” explained Shatalov.
She also credits teammates for pushing her in training and competitions. While the NYT female roster is smaller than the male, Shatalov feels that all of members are very close.
“I feel a competitiveness to keep up with the boys,” said Shatalov, who has traveled for multiple national competitions. “Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses.”
Shatalov estimates that she trains about 20 to 30 hours a week. She works on all of the triathlon events, but says that cycling is her favorite.
“I compete in bike races a lot outside of triathlons,” recalled Shatalov. “I put the most time into swimming.”
In becoming an experienced competitor, she has found ways to improve her performance. Among the finer points, Shatalov feels that transitioning smoothly between swimming, cycling, and running is an aspect that a lot of people overlook in the sport.
“In my last competition, I was able to move up a few spots on each transition,” reflected Shatalov. “It is very technical, but if you get it down right, it can help you so much.”
To work on her running, Shatalov joined the cross country team at CA. Last fall, she officially led her peers as senior captain.
“I got to take on more responsibilities with the team,” recalled Shatalov.
Due to the pandemic, her cross country team wasn’t able to compete in 2020, but the athletes still had the chance to train together.
“It was really frustrating. Not being able to compete is tough on any athlete,” stated Shatalov. “My team took our opportunity to work on (other) things.”
She also competed in swimming and track and field in her career. By working with people from her school and club team, Shatalov believes that she has benefitted from a variety of different methods.
“More training can never hurt,” added Shatalov.
This fall, Shatalov is excited to move to Virginia and start a new chapter at the University of Richmond. In October, she plans to take a couple days off from school to travel to Bermuda for her world triathlon experience.
“I’ll have to work it out with my professors, so that I don’t miss much work,” said Shatalov.
Along with changing schools, she will join a new triathlon team, Endorphin Fitness.
“Endorphin is a bigger club and more intense. They put out strong athletes,” stated Shatalov.
She anticipates making new friends, but will still miss competing with her local team. Shatalov plans to stay with the NYT squad until the end of the summer.
“We are a small team, so we consider ourselves a family,” said Shatalov. “When people graduate, we still keep in touch.”
She feels that her ultimate goal is to complete an ironman triathlon. To build up to that dream, Shatalov is plans to do her first Olympic triathlon this year.
“I was planning to do it last year, but due to COVID, I wasn’t able to,” reflected Shatalov.
In academics and athletics, she believes that her high school has helped to prepare her for the new experiences ahead of her. Last Saturday, Shatalov participated in the commencement ceremony at CA.
I’ve grown a lot,” stated Shatalov. “I was shy and kept my head in books as a freshman, but I’ve become so much more confident.”