Beijing in September 2007, Honolulu in April 2008, Des Moines in June 2008 to Decide Team
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (August 9, 2007) -
USA Triathlon is pleased to announce that Beijing, China; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Des Moines, Iowa will serve as the three draft-legal events for triathlon's 2008 U.S. Olympic Team selection process.
The triathlon team will have a maximum of three slots per gender based on country and athlete rankings, which will be finalized after the 2008 World Championships in Vancouver.
The 2008 U.S. Olympic Team selection process for triathlon begins September 15-16 at the Beijing World Cup, where the first male and female American athletes to cross the finish line will be awarded spots on the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team. The next male and female triathlon team members will be selected in a similar manner at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials at the Honolulu Triathlon on April 26, 2008. The final members of the team will be selected following the Hy- Vee Triathlon in Des Moines on June 22, 2008. These final slots will be determined on a points system that takes into account the athletes' best two finishes over the three races. The points system will also determine the team
USAT chose a three-event process because of the unpredictable nature of the sport, where equipment issues, tactics, environmental conditions, injury or illness can all affect an athlete's performance. By spreading the qualification across three races, consistency is rewarded and the best team will be selected.
The events were chosen based on the challenge they will present to the athletes and the similarity in course features and conditions they offer to the Olympic race venue. They will be open to both U.S. and international competitors, but only U.S. citizens who carry a USA Triathlon elite license are eligible to make the U.S. Olympic Team.
"Obviously, Beijing is the course the athletes will be racing in 2008," said USAT Sport Performance Director Scott Schnitzspahn. "Honolulu matches the climbing the athletes will experience on the bike, it's a non-wetsuit swim, and a flat run. They've hosted the Trials in the past and they did a great job. Des Moines will offer hot, humid conditions and will attract a competitive international field, and after this year's successful race there, we know they will go all out for our athletes."
"The Beijing race in September will be highly competitive as it is being used by several countries as an Olympic qualifying event. The athletes that qualify there will have an entire year to prepare, so we will know how they can perform on that course, in that environment. The other two courses, the strongest athletes will prevail. There is nowhere to hide if you are weak in any discipline."
Just who will be battling for those spots?
For the women, it's close across the board. Laura Bennett (N. Palm Beach, Fla. / Boulder, Colo.), who claimed the inaugural Hy-Vee Triathlon title, is racing well, while current Elite Nationals and Pan Am Games champion Julie Swail Ertel (Irvine, Calif.) has had a phenomenal season. Sarah Haskins (St. Louis, Mo. / Colorado Springs, Colo.) has had the best World Cup finishes among Americans this year, including her first podium, while Sara McLarty (DeLand, Fla. / Colorado Springs, Colo.) is always a factor with her strong swim and bike. Sarah Groff (Cooperstown, N.Y. / Boulder, Colo.) has also been a consistent performer in recent months. Margaret Shapiro (Annandale, Va.) and 2000 Olympian Joanna Zeiger (San Diego, Calif. / Boulder, Colo.) will challenge for a spot, while Becky Lavelle (Minnetonka, Minn. / Los Gatos, Calif.) can't be overlooked.
While the obvious main story is which athletes will find their way to Beijing in 2008, another compelling angle is which athletes will be eligible to even to compete for those spots. Several of the athletes mentioned above won't even make the start list for the World Cup race in September. Just six women from the U.S. will earn a slot, which are awarded based on international ranking points 30 days out from the race. With two points races still on the schedule in August, "there are a number of athletes competing on a week to week basis to be ranked high enough to be invited to compete in Beijing," said Schnitzspahn.
Making the start lists for the Honolulu and Des Moines races will be a little easier, but athletes still must be ranked among the top 125 in the world, and several elite triathletes are still trying to earn points to get to that level.
This will mark the third time triathlon has been a part of the Olympic program. The only U.S. medal came in Athens in 2004 when Susan Williams earned bronze.
See the complete procedure for the U.S. Olympic Team selection.
See the complete World Cup rankings
See the complete Olympic rankings: | Women ]
photos Janos Schmidt