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Second Wind Helping Kearns Reclaim Place Among Top Triathletes

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

Brad Kearns sensed victory.

Only a few kilometers remained in the 40K bicycle leg of a triathlon in Cleveland last month when Kearns broke away from all but two competitors. And he believed he would be able to overcome those two in the final leg of the event, a 10-kilometer footrace.

Suddenly, a pedal on his bicycle broke. Kearns spent 10 minutes trying in vain to repair the damage. He was forced to drop out of the race but completed the bicycle ride by pedaling with one foot.

Instead of embarking on the 10K, he continued pedaling to a nearby phone booth, where he called an airline and booked an afternoon flight to Sacramento.

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Some might say the former Taft High cross-country runner also changed into Superman, for the next morning, Kearns, 23, was the first competitor to cross the finish line in a triathlon in Sacramento. His time of 1 hour, 52 minutes, 23 seconds for the swimming, cycling and running event earned him $2,000 in prize money and re-established Kearns as one of the up-and-coming performers on the professional triathlon circuit.

“In the first part of the season, I had had a string of pretty disappointing results,” said Kearns, who gave up a career as an accountant 2 years ago to became a full-time triathlete. “The broken pedal in Cleveland was another setback. I had to salvage the weekend.”

This year, Kearns reasoned, he also had to save money.

Despite winning several races last year, Kearns said he ended up in the red because travel costs ate up all of his prize money.

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This year, Kearns has 13 sponsors who take care of all of his equipment and travel expenses and offer incentives for wins. He has competed in 13 triathlons and 2 biathlons since the season began in April and has earned about $12,000 in prize money. His only other first-place finish was in June, at the state championships in Huntington Beach.

“I don’t feel there’s a lot of people out there who can beat me when I’m on,” said Kearns, who grew up in Woodland Hills and spent this past summer living and training in Malibu. “But you really have to be on a roll to do as well as you think you should.”

A few weeks after his victory in Sacramento, Kearns capitalized on his momentum by finishing sixth in the World Triathlon Championships in Nice, France. He completed the 2.4-mile swim, 80-mile bike ride and 20-mile run in 6:19.

“It was the best race of my life,” he said.

Kearns hopes he has an even better race next month in the $100,000 Bermuda Triathlon. Then it’s on to events in Hilton Head, S.C., and Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean.

“I heard Reunion Island was exactly halfway around the world from the United States,” Kearns said. “It doesn’t matter which way you fly, it’s going to take the same amount of time to get there.”

Based on past performance, however, Kearns probably will find a way to get there faster.


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