Island multi sport athletes medal at world championships

Shelly and Paul Bloom, and newbie Jen Passafiume, all take bronze in Denmark.

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Bronzing took on a whole new meaning last weekend as three Island athletes took bronze medals at International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championship events in Odense, Denmark.

Paul and Shelly Bloom competed in the aquathlon 1000 meter, 5k run last Thursday. Beth Goodell and Jennifer Passafiume competed in the the long course Aquabike event 3 km swim (1.8 miles) and 121 km  bike (75.1 miles) taking place last Saturday.

Island swim coach and teacher Jennifer Passafiume stunned herself by finishing third in only her second ITU aquabike try in the aquabike event. A fourth Island competitor, Beth Goodell, was on her way to an Island bronze sweep when her bike crashed. “Beth had a bronze before the crash,” Shelly Bloom said. Passafiume agreed. “She passed me and she was flying,” Passafiume said. But Goodell dusted herself off, got back in the race and made up ground to finish 15th in her 50-54 age group. She emailed the Times enroute to the Island. “I am over the moon for my bronze champion teammates Jen, Paul and Shelly, and thanks to a fellow racer who pulled off the road, jeopardizing his placement, after my bike accident around mile 45. I am grateful for a secure strong helmet and my gymnastics ability to tuck and roll. Finishing was harder than the Ironman for me — but I was not quitting. I ended up in 15th place and a minor concussion but I’m very, very pleased overall,” she said.

Shelley Bloom medaled in the 65-69 group and Paul took Bronze in the 70-74 group. Passafiume competed in the 30-34 age group.

Shelley Bloom medaled in the 65-69 group, and Paul took bronze in the 70-74 group. Passafiume competed in the 30-34 age group.

The ITU world championships draw more than 3,000 world-class competitors to its annual premier event in a variety of ultrasport disciplines. The four Island residents competed in the aquathlon, which combines swimming and bike racing over distances that vary by age groups.

Passafiume was still flying this week after her time in the aquabike event put her on the podium. “Yeah, I do feel like I won the lottery. I’m still processing it,” Passafiume told the Times after a day back on the job teaching and coaching at the Island Y.

“It still feels like a dream. Before the race, I would’ve bet a million bucks I wouldn’t be on that podium with the level of competition. When I got out of the water [1.8-mile swim], starting the bike race [75 miles], I knew I wasn’t last, and I passed one girl in my age group. I just made sure she wouldn’t pass me. I didn’t know I had medalled until Shelly texted me about 20 minutes after the race was over,” she said. “The course set up for my strengths; it had a lot of flat stretches.”

Passafiume’s bike-speed average was 19.5 mph over the 75-mile course.

Passafiume’s performance is more notable because she was a nonathlete until seven years ago. “I didn’t play any sports in middle school or high school. I started running because I liked it. I did well in some local races, but I hurt my knee and switched to swimming and biking, and really began training and competing three years ago,” she said.

As a longtime Island teacher (Edgartown and Chilmark), she sees her accomplishment as a teachable moment. “I always tell my students that as an athlete, anything is possible with hard work. And never, never let anyone tell you that you can’t do it,” she said.

The Island competitors can compete in November in Miami to qualify for the 2019 ITU event to be held in May 2019 in Pontevedra, Spain.