Borough man takes second at triathlon

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Karim Mabrouk finishes in second during the 26th Annual Pat Griskus Sprint Triathlon Wednesday night. The event consisted of a half mile swim at Lake Quassapaug, a 10.5 mile bike around the lake and a 3.1 mile run.  –RA ARCHIVE
Karim Mabrouk finishes in second during the 26th Annual Pat Griskus Sprint Triathlon Wednesday night. The event consisted of a half mile swim at Lake Quassapaug, a 10.5 mile bike around the lake and a 3.1 mile run. –RA ARCHIVE

MIDDLEBURY — There was no surprise that Easton’s Chris Thomas captured his fourth-straight title, and fifth overall, with a time of 57 minutes, 13 seconds at the 27th annual BMW of Watertown Pat Griskus Sprint Triathlon Wednesday night.

What was a bit unexpected, though, was Karim Mabrouk’s second-place finish, considering the 26-year-old from Naugatuck didn’t arrive at Quassy Amusement Park until 5:35 p.m. after getting stuck in a traffic jam and a rainstorm through Hartford on his way back from the University of Connecticut campus in Storrs.

“I was in a little panic mode,” admitted Mabrouk, who finished the half-mile swim, 10.5-mile bike ride and 3.1-mile run in one hour, 35 seconds. “It was a good adrenaline rush. I went into the water without a warm-up. I just barely had enough time to register and get down to the beach.”

Fortunately, there was a slight delay because of rain. The newlywed, who was married on June 29 to Naugatuck’s Kristin Heller, got lucky. His wife set up his bike in the transition area hours before the race.

“That was my first official responsibility as a wife,” Kristin said. “Hopefully, I did a good job.”

Mabrouk couldn’t be more pleased, noting that Wednesday was six years to the day that he competed in his first Griskus race. Then, he finished in an hour and 18 minutes for 124th place overall.

“Every year, I have seen progress,” Mabrouk said.

Every year, Thomas, now 41 and representing Team Timex, keeps getting better. He’s won six Griskus Olympic-distance triathlons in a row as well. When rain soaked the roads around Quassy for more than a half-hour before the race, Thomas changed his approach on the bike.

“You just have to slow down around the corners and downhill more,” said Thomas. “You need to stay under control, be smart and be safe. You are not trying to break any records.”

With defending champion Cassie Maximenko of Naugatuck nursing right ankle and right leg injuries, Tara Kupersmith, 48, of Greenwich took center stage and won the female division with a time of 1:07:46.

The feel-good story of the night once again belonged to Prospect’s Tanya Sage, who competed in her third straight event. A cancer survivor, she is also legally blind in both eyes, yet tackled the swim portion with guide Andrew Quesnell and the run portion with her husband, Rick. Her nephew, Ryan Fowler, handled the bike part of the relay.

Despite her health struggles, Sage follows a simple rule: “Just because you have an injury, your life is not over. I love being out here and giving it my best.”

John Holt, WFSB-3 sports director, was following Sage around the course and is scheduled to air a segment on her next month.