On August 6th and 7th, the ITU World Championship series heads to London. This is a critical event for many countries, including the U.S.A., because members of the 2012 Olympic team will be selected at this event.
For U.S.A. athletes, a good performance means automatic selection. The two highest placing U.S.A. athletes, one male and one female, will make the team provided they finish in 9th place or higher. Because this is a test event, or dry run, for the Olympic organizers you can count on a highly competitive field. All countries want to have a look at the Olympic venue and they will be sending their top athletes to the event.
Best wishes to all athletes for a great race – all you can do is your best on that day.
My first Olympic love was the Winter Games. I can hardly wait for the action to begin. As you might expect, several of the athletes on the US Olympic Team are from Colorado. It never hurts to root for the home-state gang.
I did see on the news this morning that Lindsey Vonn (said to be the Michel Phelps of the Winter Games) has an injured shin. May this highly-talented skier heal quickly.
In addition to the Olympic Games, this weekend is the ITU Winter Triathlon World Championships in Norway . Recall I’ve told you in past postings that the ITU is looking to get the sport of winter triathlon into the Olympic Games. Information on Worlds is found on both the ITU website and the official World Championship website.
In the last month I received three requests for a listing of the columns I've written, by category. I figured three requests was some sort of signal that people needed information in a way that I wasn't providing, so I went to work. Below, you'll find a listing of most of the columns I've written for the Active Network organized by category and title to make it easier for you to find the information you need. Every few months I'll update this blog with new links. I believe if you are a column subscriber you should get notice when the blog is updated.
Athletes ~ Thanks for reading and thanks for asking ~
In just one week from today, the opening ceremonies will be held for the Olympic Games. To make it easier for you to know what is happening with your favorite athletes and sport, I've done some research for you. Below is a list of helpful links:
Homepage for the Olympic Games - Opening Ceremonies are 8-8-08.
Complete schedule by sport. Once you are on this page, you can select the sport in the left column and get more detail.
I've done a good deal of browsing on the NBC Olympic site and I have to say they've done a great job. There are athlete profiles, videos and stories for all sports. They've included athletes from several countries as well.
Within the NBC site, you can find out the broadcast schedule for your specific location. You can also sign up for cell phone alerts or email alerts for a menu of options.
I did have a look at the transition video for triathlon and I'm not sure who put it together, but near the end of the video the commentator says something to the effect of, "Do it wrong and pay the price." The video scene is of Susan Williams crashing into the barrier on her bike.
The commentator is completely off base, relating the barrier crash to doing transitions "wrong" - but if Susan did it wrong and the price to pay was a Bronze medal...well seems like a nice price.
Sheila is a fierce competitor; there is no doubt about it. When she sets a goal, she goes after it with dogged determination. How determined? More determined than anyone, as no other woman in history has gone to the Olympic Games in three different sports.
I'm told one male has gone to the Games in three sports, but I need to verify this. I'll do some research and get back to you.
Sheila's Olympic travels began when she won a gold medal in the 1996 Games in swimming. In these Atlanta Games she swam the third leg of the 800-meter freestyle relay race for the United States. Her journey continued when she qualified for the 2000 and 2004 USA Triathlon Olympic teams. (Most of you know triathlon is swimming, cycling and running.) Sheila placed sixth in the triathlon in Sydney, 2000 and 23rd in Athens, 2004.
For the 2008 Beijing Games, Sheila is competing in the sport of modern pentathlon. What is pentathlon? Competitors earn points for their performances in each of the five disciplines: pistol shooting, epee fencing, swimming, equestrian show jumping and cross-country running. As we get closer to the Games, I'll detail more on the sport of pentathlon.
ESPN's Carrie Sheinberg wrote a great column on Sheila that can be found here.
Sheila is one of eight children. Her family is top priority for her. Prior to past Olympic Games, Sheila sold t-shirts to help finance travel to the Games for a few family members. She is doing it again, but this time the t-shirt has special meaning. It is part of history.
Sheila's sister Sudee designed the shirt. The t-shirt design includes the flags of all four countries that have hosted the four Olympics in which Sheila has competed. They are a backdrop within the design, so you should see the flags for the USA, Australia, Greece, and China. Also, all five sports of the modern pentathlon included in the design. Take note how the fencer's bell-guard is also the target for the shooter.
You can see the shirt on Sheila's website and there is easy ordering from Amazon on that site via the special link. Notice the price of the shirt, only $20, includes shipping.
Now, for a bit of extra effort on your part (writing a check and sending an order form in the ordinary mail system) you can get the shirt directly from Sheila's family, have it signed by Sheila if you wish and get a certificate of authenticity.
If you are not currently on the home page for this blog, click on the title of the blog. At the bottom of the blog you will find an attachment that is the order form for the t-shirt.
I'm happy to help Sheila and her family.
I traveled to many events on the ITU World Cup circuit with Shiela, we had a lot of good laughs. In the coming weeks, I'll share some of the stories and a few behind-the-scenes photos. Below is a photo of Sheila relaxing on the curb in front of our house after the 2004 Olympic Triathlon event.
I received an email asking me what I thought the odds are that the USA men will lose a starting line position for triathlon at the Olympics.
In yesterday's blog I outlined the current issue. Let me give you more information today.
I think there is a high likelihood that the USA will indeed lose that third men's slot this weekend. The big question is by how much.
I don't know what the Russian Olympic qualifying process entails, so there might be some intersquad rivalries that I'm unaware of, but if I were coaching that Russian team, I would make my team strategy to do whatever it takes to get Polyansky the most points possible. Yes, this means all of his country men setting him up in anyway possible for a win - or as close to that as possible. No one from Russia ought to cross the line ahead of him. Every Russian male athlete should be working for Polyanksy - and they should be rewarded within the country system for doing so.
Does the country system reward such team work in Russia? I don't know.
Looking ahead now to Madrid, requires some looking back in time. First know that Hunter does not have the maximum number of races that go into this year's rankings. This is a good thing and means it is easier for Hunter to make a points gap than it is for Polyansky to make a gap at this point. Any points Hunter scores adds to his total. Polyansky needs to place higher and score more points than in a previous race, to build his points gap. You can see this by looking at the Olympic Rankings chart.
When they have raced at the same race, only twice in recent past, Hunter has gotten the nod. Kemper/Polyansky at Des Moines 2007 and Beijing 2007: 172 to 92 and 201 to 117 respectively. On paper, Kemper is the faster athlete.
In Madrid, ignoring any individual goals, the USA is sending four men and Russia is sending three. It is in the best interest of each country to sacrifice any individual goals to get Kemper or Polyansky in the best positions possible.
While the battle above is going on, don't turn a blind eye to Australia and Switerland. As I mentioned before, the four countries are close in points.
If I was a betting gal, I'd bet the USA will lose the position at the Richard's Bay World Cup; but get it back in Madrid and keep it through World Championships. Of course, I'm assuming no crashes, injuries, etc. for Kemper.
Do you plan to watch the South African Richard's Bay World Cup online at the ITU website this weekend? Perhaps you should?
In the world of getting Olympic slots for your country, recall from my column about the qualification process that only eight countries will get three men and three women on the start line at the Olympic Games.
Which countries can send three athletes per gender is determined by the "2008 Olympic Qualification" document found on this page. Just select that document to read all of the gory details.
What it boils down to, is Hunter Kemper is currently our third place, USA ranked male and his ranking points total 2359. Complete rankings can be found by selecting the "2008 Beijing Olympic Qualification Rankings" document, found here. Know that the USA is currently the last country to qualify three men on the start line for the Olympic Games.
The country closest to taking that spot away at this weekend's Richard's Bay World Cup race is Russia, specifically Dmitri Polyansky. His current Olympic rank puts him a mere 53 points away from Hunter Kemper. Looking at the scores he's accumulated in his recent races (419, 379, 293, 252, 238, 221, 167, 126, 126) you can see it is completely possible for him to replace his lowest score with a good performance in Richard's Bay.
I have not tried to do the math to figure out what place he needs to get to score that 53 points, but the race point system can be found here by selecting "ITU Points Critera".
If the USA men lose that third slot, the only way to get it back is by Hunter having a solid race at Madrid World Cup. That start list can be found here or the ITU BG Vancouver World Championships June 8th. World Championships is the cut-off date for the Olympic qualification process.
The last country to earn thee starts at the Olympic Games, for the men, depends on the following gentlemen racing for their respective countries. They are all separated by a couple hundred points, as of 4/26/08:
Brendan Sexton - Australia (2507)
Oliver Marceau - Switzerland (2452)
Hunter Kemper - USA (2359)
Dmitri Polyansky - Russia (2306)
Know that all of these guys are on the start list for the Madrid World Cup, found here.
Unless Kemper can perform well, and keep his points higher than the men listed above, we won't need to worry about qualifying a third man to the Olympics at the Des Moines World Cup race.
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.