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Triathlon - 26. March 2008.

Triathletes Vying for Olympic Team Have Stories to Tell

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (March 24, 2008) -- With the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials - Triathlon in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday, April 19, less than a month away, the 20 U.S. athletes eligible to compete are well into their season training, getting ready for some tune up races over the next couple of weeks, and eagerly anticipating the event that will land one male and one female on the team headed to Beijing, China in September.

-- Julie Ertel won a silver medal in water polo in 2000. She switched to triathlon in 2002 and proceeded to win amateur national and world titles before turning pro. 2007 was a breakout year, with Julie winning her first Elite National Title, a Gold Medal at the Pan American Games, the USAT Haul to the Great Wall Elite Series title, and her first World Cup gold.

-- Laura Bennett was the second alternate in 2000, first alternate in 2004, and qualified for the 2008 Olympic Team at last year's Beijing World Cup. She is married to Australian triathlete and former Olympian Greg Bennett. Between the two of them, they brought in the biggest single day prize payments in the history of our sport in 2007 (nearly 1 million dollars combined cash).

-- Becky Lavelle is one of the best non-draft- legal triathlete in the world. She recently lost her twin sister to a post-partum depression incident. She has made it a mission to raise funds for her sister¡¯s foundation: www.jennyslight.com.

-- Sarah Haskins Kortuem is married to the team mechanic and fellow elite triathlete Nate Kortuem.

-- Sara McLarty is regarded as the best swimmer in triathlon today and is always the first athlete out of the water. She got her skills lifeguarding and also owns open water swimming titles. Her brother swims at University of Florida and is on a quest for his own Olympic spot.

-- Joanna Zeiger is trying to make her second Olympic Team after finishing 4th in Sydney in 2000. She has a PhD in epidemiology from Johns Hopkins University and currently works at the University of Colorado, Institute of Behavioral Genetics.

For the women, Joanna Zeiger is the oldest at 37.

Below is more bio information on each of our Olympic Team members and the hopefuls still in the running (complete bios are located on the USAT website).


Laura Bennett
Hometown: North Palm Beach, FL
Birthday: 4/25/75
Participated in IronKids Bread Triathlon Series as a youth¡­ Brothers and father also compete in triathlon¡­ eight-time All American swimmer at Southern Methodist University¡­ Married to Australian triathlete Greg Bennett¡­ 2003 Elite National Champion¡­ four-time USAT Female Triathlete of the Year¡­ Olympic Team alternate in 2004¡­ top-ranked U.S. female triathlete in 2007¡­ four-time ITU World Championship medalist¡­ Qualified for 2008 U.S. Olympic Team at Beijing World Cup in September 2007

Sarah Haskins Kortuem
Hometown: St. Louis, MO
Birthday: 3/13/81
2004 USAT U23 National Champion¡­ 2006 Haul to the Great Wall Elite Series Champion¡­ 2006 USAT Elite National Champion¡­ 2007 Pan Am Games Silver Medalist¡­ Second-ranked U.S. female elite triathlete in 2007

Julie Ertel
Hometown: Irvine, CA
Birthday: 12/27/72
Won silver medal at 2000 Sydney Olympic Games for water polo¡­ Won overall age-group title at 2002 USAT National Championship¡­ Turned elite after winning 2002 overall age-group title at ITU Worlds¡­ 2005 & 2007 Haul to the Great Wall Series Champion¡­ 2007 USAT Elite National Champion¡­ 2007 Pan Am Games Gold Medalist¡­ Won first World Cup event in 2007 (Cancun)

Sarah Groff
Hometown: Cooperstown, NY
Birthday: 11/27/81
Earned All-NESCAC and All-American honors while swimming for Middlebury College¡­ Won 2007 Geneva Pan Am Cup¡­ 2007 ITU Aquathlon World Champion¡­ USAT National Team Member¡­ Coached by former elite Siri Lindley

Sara McLarty
Hometown: DeLand, FL
Birthday: 2/25/83
Former IronKids Bread Triathlon Series National Champion¡­ 2000 Collegiate National Triathlon Champion¡­ 4-time SEC Swimming Champion at University of Florida¡­ 2005 USAT Rookie of the Year¡­ 2006 U23 Athlete of the Year¡­ 2006 USAT U23 National Champion¡­ 2006 ITU Aquathlon World Champion

Becky Lavelle
Hometown: Minnetonka, MN
Birthday: 12/5/74
10-time NCAA All-American Swimmer at Louisiana State University¡­ Married to fellow triathlete, Brian Lavelle¡­ Coached by her brother, Randy Gibbs¡­ 2003 Pan Am Games Bronze Medalist¡­ 2005 USAT National Champion¡­ 2006 USAT Non-ITU Triathlete of the Year

Jasmine Oeinck
Hometown: Littleton, CO
Birthday: 9/19/85
Began competing in triathlon at age 16¡­ Silver Medalist at 2007 ITU U23 World Championships¡­ 2007 USAT U23 Female Athlete of the Year¡­ USAT National Team Member¡­ finished 8th at ITU Junior World Championship in Cancun in 2002

Margaret Shapiro
Hometown: Great Falls, VA
Birthday: 12/30/76
Ran cross-country and track at Georgetown University¡­ Mother of two¡­ 2005 Overall Age Group World Champion¡­ Undefeated in all races in 2005¡­ Member of 2007 of USAT Elite Development Squad

Rebeccah Wassner
Hometown: Gaithersburg, MD
Birthday: 9/1/75
2003 25-29 Age Group National Champion¡­ Member of FILA Discovery Marathon Team¡­ One of few pro triathletes who lives in New York City¡­ 2004 USAT Elite Rookie of the Year

Joanna Zeiger
Hometown: San Diego, CA
Birthday: 5/4/70
Competed in first triathlon on a borrowed bike in 1993¡­ Has a doctorate degree in epidemiology from Johns Hopkins University¡­ 1998 USAT Rookie of the Year¡­ Placed 4th at 2000 Sydney Olympic Games¡­ 2000 USAT Elite Champion¡­ 2000 USOC Triathlete of the Year

Amanda Stevens
Hometown: Enid, OK
Birthday: 3/4/77
Received Medical Degree from University of Oklahoma in 2006¡­ 2001 25-29 Age Group National Champion¡­ 2002 25-29 Age Group World Champion¡­ 2004 Olympic Trials Qualifier¡­ 2008 National Team Member

Mary Beth Ellis
Hometown: Rehoboth Beach, DE
Birthday: 7/12/77
Competed in swimming, cross-country, and track at Northwestern University¡­ 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials Qualifier for swimming¡­ Competed in marathons after college and turned to triathlon in 2005¡­ Only competed in three races before turning pro

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