I'm writing this note on Friday evening in Rhodes. All of the athletes needed to arrive by today, specifically 5:00 pm, in order to get their preferred start location on the start line.
On race day, athletes are introduced in the order of their world ranking. After being introduced, each athlete immediately walks to the starting box of their preference. For this race, starting boxes are marked on the carpeting that overlays a wooden platform. The wooden platform sits directly on the beach and it will be a run, then dive start.
Sometimes, the start lines are on top of pontoons located in the water. A pontoon start is a diving start.
This morning, some of the Team BG athletes swam in the pool that sits in a beautiful location overlooking the ocean. Other athletes wanted to swim in the ocean to test the current and water temperature. This will be a non-wetsuit swim due to the 26-degree Celsius (78.8 degrees Fahrenheit) water temperature.
It is fun to hear athletes from different countries speaking their native languages. While I know the world is a big place, traveling to international races is always a great reminder for me that I live in a very small corner of earth.
Five of the nine athletes racing for Team BG at this race were at the Vancouver race I supported in early June. That particular race was cold and rainy. It was a wetsuit swim due to the chilly water temperature.
Somehow, one of the athletes got the wise idea that if any of them placed in the top ten, the support staff should take a dip in the cold, cold, cold water. I did take my suit and towel with me on race day, expecting I would take a blue-lip dip. The highest placing Team BG athlete was 11th.
That athlete, Lisa Norden, wanted a proposition for this race.
Gale says to herself, "Sweet! The water is wonderful here, I'd be more than happy to go in and pay on that bet."
Before knowing the proposition, and based on my assumption, I say "Sure, a race bet is in order!"
Ah...not so fast...Lisa's proposition for this race was that if any of the athletes on Team BG place in the top 10, support staff will take a plunge off of the 5-meter platform that sits in the ocean within the circumference of the course.
As promised, more on the race to the Olympic Games in the sport of triathlon.
In some sports, there is a single trials race to select the Olympic team. This has been the case in swimming and running in past years, as examples. Show up to one event, lay it all on the line to make the team. Hopefully, when the Olympic Games come along, you can lay it all on the line one more time to get on the podium as the top of your game, top in the world.
There is certainly attraction to a single event carrying the title "Olympic Trials". There are also some downsides. If you happen to be ill, injured or have an equipment problem at the Trials, your Olympic hopes are done. If you happen to be one of the best in the world, our USA hopes of you being on the podium are done because you didn't make the team.
If the USA knows you are one of the best in the world, why doesn't the National Governing Body (NGB) of USA Triathlon simply appoint you to the team? A committee selection process must be carefully designed to rule out personal biases, preferences and political picks.
Some sports do appoint team members through a selection committee, such as USA Cycling.
I have served on two USA Triathlon Olympic Selection Process Committees and designing a process to select the Olympic team is not easy. I've attended a US Olympic Committee seminar where all of the sports shared their selection processes, including the trials and tribulations of each process. I can tell you there is not a single, perfect selection process design.
The design for USA Triathlon's Olympic Team Selection Process was intended to give athletes more than one opportunity to make the team. This reduces the non-selection of top athletes due to illness, injury or equipment problems. It gives experienced, long-time World Cup racers an opportunity as well as giving newcomers an opportunity.
Yes, there are three races and some might argue that chasing the final spot on the team is too exhausting. Reasonable argument, except the last female to make our 2004 Olympic team was also our only medalist, Susan Williams.
For those of you that have not been following World Cup racing, I will continue this blog series to help you learn about International Triathlon Union (ITU) racing and our Olympic team. The race to Beijing begins in just a few weeks.
A few quick facts and links for those of you that love details:
Triathletes must be ranked in the top 125 in the world to be eligible to compete in the Olympic Games in the sport of triathlon. World Rankings are updated after key races and can be found under the "Rankings" tab at the ITU site.
The 2008 Olympic Rankings are based on World Cup performances between June 1, 2006 and June 8, 2008. All the details for the International Triathlon Union's Olympic Qualification process for all countries can be found here.
The entry process into World Cup events is limited. The selection process for USA athletes into World Cup events can be found here.
As the 2007 ITU World Championships wrap up this holiday weekend, elite triathletes around the world begin aiming for the 2007 Beijing World Cup races on September 15 and 16. It is a qualifying opportunity for many athletes and the last opportunity for racers and staff to see the Olympic course prior to the Games. A dress rehearsal not to be missed.