Kirstie Kniaziew was a successful professional triathlete. A three-time Canadian Junior Champion, she competed at the International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championships and the Pan American Games and has run several Ironman Triathlons.
Kniaziew was born on June 30, 1975 in St. Catharines, Ontario but raised in Leamington.
Barrie Shepley, a Harrow native and the national triathlon coach, noticed Kniaziew’s potential when she ran her first charity triathlon as a high school student. Kniazew, then a track and field runner, switched sports and began to train under him. Within two years, she was a world-class triathlete in her age group.
As a teenager, Kniaziew won three consecutive Canadian Championships in the Junior Women’s division from 1992 to ’94. At the ITU World Championships, she placed 12th, 3rd (earning a bronze medal), 5th, and 4th in consecutive years from 1991 to ’94.
At the 1995 Pan American Games in Mar del Plata, Argentina, Kniaziew won a silver medal. It was a career highlight that led to her receiving Triathon Canada’s highest individual year-end award. That same year, Kniaziew placed in the top 10 in the ITU series.
Kniaziew achieved further success following the Pan-Am Games. In 1998, she managed a 14th place finish at the Canadian Triathlon championships and 5th place at the ITU World Championships. She reached number 62 on the ITU world rankings, identifying her as Canada’s third best triathlete. In 2003, she was ranked sixth on the All-American triathlete list for women between the ages of 25 and 29.
In addition to standard Olympic-length triathlons, Kniaziew also competed in Ironman Triathlons, which comprise a 2.4-mile swim, a 12-mile bike race, and a 26.2-mile run. She is the only woman from Essex County to compete one of the grueling races in under 10 hours.
Kniaziew credits Shepley, her longtime coach, with much of her success throughout her career.