Team of six will travel to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for July 15 race
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 26, 2007) --
The athletes were selected based on performances at the USA Triathlon Elite National Championship in Honolulu, Hawaii and at the Hy-Vee World Cup in Des Moines, Iowa. The top American athlete at each event earned a spot, with the second two spots going to athletes based on their average performances over the two races.
The U.S. athletes will look to build on the five medals earned since triathlon was introduced to the Games in 1995. Hunter Kemper (2003) and Karen Smyers (1995) captured the only U.S. golds at the event.
The 2007 Pan Ams team is as follows (U.S finish places appear below):
Julie Swail (Irvine, Calif.) - 1st at Honolulu; 3rd at Des Moines
Sarah Haskins (St. Louis, Mo. / Colorado Springs, Colo.) - 2nd at Honolulu; 2nd at Des Moines
Sara McLarty (Deland, Fla. / Colorado Springs, Colo.) - 4th at Honolulu; 3rd at Des Moines
Alternate: Margaret Shapiro (Annandale, Va.)
Laura Bennett actually qualified for the team but gave up her spot to McLarty was had earned the first alternate position.
"This is great international experience for athletes who are potential Olympians," said USAT Sport Performance Director Scott Schnitzspahn. "I'm excited about the team we have. Depending on the tactics we use, any of our athletes can win."
Swail, who earned her first national title in Honolulu in May, has been running well and will look to work with Haskins and McLarty, who use a strong swim leg to regularly get the American athletes in the lead pack on the bike. The biggest competition for the team will come from Canada and Brazil. Brazilian Mariana Ohata will be making her third Pan Ams appearance (6th in 2003 and 1999) and is coming off a strong 3rd place performance at the Hy-Vee World Cup. Canadians Kathy Tremblay, Lauren Groves, and Kirsten Sweetland will challenge for podium spots as well.
What the Athletes Have to Say
This is my first time participating in a games event and I am looking forward to representing my country and putting forth my best effort. Taking home a Pan Ams gold would be the highest achievement in my athletic career. I feel we have a strong U.S. team that can work together extremely well. Working together on the swim and bike will put U.S. athletes up on the podium.
I'm eternally grateful to Laura Bennett (an amazing athlete and person) for my opportunity to compete in Rio at the Pan Am Games. She declined her slot so that I can go represent the USA and help my teammates bring home a gold medal. Earlier this year, I stated that "Making the USA Pan Am Team" was one of my 2007 goals...so I guess I can put a 'check- mark' next to that goal. Now my goal for the actual race in Brazil is to either be on the top of the awards podium or help an American teammate get there...the gold medal not only represents a Pan Am win, but also an Olympic Games slot for our country.
I am thrilled to be representing the U.S. at the Pan Am Games again. This will be my third time (once in water polo '99, and again in triathlon in '03). I think it is a terrific event to prepare athletes for the Olympic Games in that it simulates the Village lifestyle, the multiple sports competing in one city, Opening and Closing ceremonies, etc.
In 2003 I was just thrilled to be on the team. I'm approaching my role on this team much differently in that I plan to come back with a gold medal for the U.S. That would earn the U.S. a third slot for our team in the Olympic Games helping our team out and also making the chances for each athlete to qualify a little easier.
Laura Bennett was very kind in bowing out of the Pan Am Games to be replaced by Sara McLarty. McLarty is a fantastic swimmer and a tremendous asset to the U.S. team. With her swim speed that can separate the swim pack, I believe that Sarah Haskins and I can both podium and bring home the gold for the U.S. The three of us are team players and I think that the team dynamics will be good.
I am very proud to be a part of the Pan Am Games team and have been preparing for it since I qualified in Honolulu.
History of the U.S. at the Pan Am Games
Women: Silver - Sheila Taormina; Bronze - Becky Lavelle; 8th - Julie Swail
Men: Gold - Hunter Kemper; 4th - Doug Friman; 15th - Victor Plata
Women: 4th - Jennifer Gutierrez; 5th - Jill Newman; 7th - Karen Smyers
Men: Silver - Hunter Kemper; 5th - Tim DeBoom; 10th - Tony DeBoom
Women: Gold - Karen Smyers; 4th - Gail Laurence; 10th - Kelly Kwiatkowski
Men: 5th - Andrew Carlson; 12th - Nathaniel Llerandi; DNF - Tim DeBoom
About the Pan American Games
The Pan American games are a continental version of the Olympic Games that brings together close to 40 countries in North, Central, and South America and the Caribbean. The Games include the Olympic Program sports and others that are not part of the Olympics. Conducted every four years, always one year before the Olympic Games, the first Pan American Games were held in 1951, in Buenos Aires, capital of Argentina. However, its origin dates back to 1932, in the Los Angeles Olympic Games. Inspired by the holding of the first Central American Games six years earlier, the Latin American representatives of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) proposed the creation of a competition that would include all the countries in the Americas, for the purpose of strengthening sport activities in the region.
Visit the official Pan Am Games website: http://www.cob.org.br/pan2007/ingles/indexing.asp
About USA Triathlon
USA Triathlon is the national governing body for triathlon, duathlon, aquathlon and winter triathlon in the United States. USAT sanctions 2,000 races and connects with more than 90,000 members each year, making it the largest multisport organization in the world.
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photos Janos Schmidt