American teen track sensation Mary Cain turns to triathlon

Photo: Mary Cain Instagram

This weekend’s Draft Legal Challenge in Clermont, Florida will see American Mary Cain make her draft-legal debut as she sets her sights on triathlon. Cain was recruited by now-disgraced track and field coach Alberto Salazar to be part of the Nike Oregon Project (NOP) when she was just 16, and would go on to become the youngest American to compete and make a final at the World Championships – she finished ninth in the 1,500 m in 2013 when she was 17.

In 2019 Cain shocked the world when she told The New York Times that she’d been emotionally and physically abused while training with Salazar and the NOP. She has since sued both Nike and Salazar for the alleged abuse.

Growing up Cain was an age group swimmer, so the move to multisport racing is not totally surprising. Earlier this year Cain travelled to Portugal to train with elite triathlon coach Paulo Souza’s Triathlon Squad, and this weekend she’ll get a couple of opportunities to test out her draft-legal triathlon skills – there are two sprint-distance (750 m swim, 20 km bike and 5 km run) “National Development Races” at the Clermont event, one on Saturday and another on Sunday.

While Cain certainly has the running credentials and would appear capable of following the likes of Gwen Jorgensen into the triathlon world, she’s not ready to assume she’ll be a successful triathlete.

“It would be a huge disservice for all of the women who are already out there kicking butt for me to say, ‘I can swim and run. I’m going to be really good at this,’” Cain told Triathlete Magazine. “I have a lot to learn and far too much respect for athletes who have worked tirelessly in the sport for me to just think I can jump in and be the next best thing.” 

There will certainly be lots of interest in her races this weekend, though.