After establishing itself as a consistent performer on the international scene in the sport of triathlon over the past decade, the United States is looking for a breakthrough on the Olympic podium at the 2012 Games. The U.S. is the only nation to qualify the maximum number of competitors – three men and three women – in each Olympic triathlon. Susan Williams captured the 2004 bronze, and Team USA will look to add to that in London.
The Americans are poised to bring their deepest and most experienced team to London next year. The U.S. team should feature a number of Olympic veterans with a wealth of international racing experience; however, a strong cast of up-and-comers could challenge for a spot on the American roster.
For the U.S. women, Beijing Olympians Laura Bennett and Sarah Haskins rank among world’s most consistent Olympic-distance athletes and are well-positioned to make a run at a second straight Games appearance. Bennett, who was fourth in Beijing, finished 2010 ranked 10th in the ITU World Championship Series rankings and stands fourth after three events in 2011 (as of July 1, 2011), while Haskins earned her first career ITU World Cup victory in 2011 after finishing 2010 14th in the ITU World Championship Series rankings. After dealing with injuries for much of 2010, Sarah Groff has had a breakout season in 2011 and earned the first-ever podium finish for an American woman in the ITU World Championship Series on June 19 in Kitzbühel, Austria. She stands seventh in the series rankings through three events. Relative newcomer Gwen Jorgensen and Jillian Petersen headline a group of talented athletes in the USA Triathlon Project 2012 and Project 2016 developmental programs. Both Petersen and Jorgensen rank among the world’s top-50 athletes on the ITU Olympic Qualification List as of July 1, 2011.
On the men’s side, three-time Olympian Hunter Kemper is making a run at his fourth Olympics appearance. He was seventh in Beijing and appears to be rounding into form with a trio of ITU World Cup podium finishes early in 2011. Matt Chrabot and 2008 Olympian Jarrod Shoemaker ranked as the top-two Americans in the 2010 ITU World Championship Series, finishing 12th and 13th. Greg Bennett, Laura’s husband, will make a run at his first U.S. Olympic Team after competing for his native Australia and placing fourth in Athens. Manuel Huerta is off to a strong start in 2011 with a pair of top-20 ITU World Cup finishes. Additionally, the USA Triathlon Project 2012 and Project 2016 developmental programs feature a number of athletes that could challenge the top competitors throughout the qualification process.
- The 2011 USA Triathlon National Team is a veteran group with five Olympians among its seven members. Hunter Kemper is a three-time Olympian, while Laura Bennett, Sarah Haskins and Jarrod Shoemaker are seeking a return trip to the Games after competing in Beijing. Greg Bennett was a 2004 Olympian for his native Australia and is competing for the United States for the first time in 2011.
- Hunter Kemper is the only American to qualify for each of the three Olympic triathlons, and he’s making a run at a fourth appearance next year in London. Kemper has been hampered by injuries over the past couple of years, but he’s proven he can hang with the world’s best in 2011. Now healthy, Kemper has earned three ITU World Cup podium finishes this season, including his first win since 2005 in April 2011 in Ishigaki, Japan. Kemper will turn 36 prior to the 2012 Games.
- The United States’ Olympic hopeful triathletes have a number of family ties within the sport:
- 2008 Beijing Olympian Jarrod Shoemaker has a pair of fellow elite triathletes in his life in his wife Alicia Kaye and his sister Jenna Parker. Shoemaker’s mother, Mae Shoemaker, has completed 20 consecutive Boston Marathons.
- Laura Bennett and her husband, Greg Bennett, are both Olympians; Laura was on the 2008 U.S. team, and Greg was a 2004 Olympian for his native Australia. Ironically, both Bennetts finished fourth, just missing on a medal. Greg is competing under the United States flag for the first time in 2011 with the hopes of helping Laura make a run at gold in London. Laura’s father and two brothers are top age group triathletes.
- Beijing Olympian Sarah Haskins is coached by her husband, Nate Korteum, a former elite triathlete. The pair often trains together in Colorado Springs, Colo.
- Finally healthy in 2011, Sarah Groff delivered the first-ever ITU World Championship Series podium finish for an American woman in June in Kitzbühel, Austria, when she earned bronze. Groff also posted a seventh-place finish earlier that month at the ITU WCS stop in Madrid and is rounding into form as the 2012 Games approach. Groff, who spends much of her season training internationally, had to overcome a fractured sacrum in 2010.
- USA Triathlon National Team members Matt Chrabot and Jarrod Shoemaker both worked as beach lifeguards after college prior to becoming professional triathletes. Both athletes credit training for the job with helping prepare them for the sport of triathlon.
- Manuel Huerta relocated to Miami at the age of 12 from his native Cuba where his dream of competing in the Olympics was born by watching the Games on government-monitored television. Once in the United States, Huerta earned a running scholarship to Florida Atlantic University before winning a USA Triathlon Under-23 National Championship title and competing at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Triathlon Trials as the youngest male athlete in the event. He had a career-best 13th-place WCS finish at the ITU Hamburg World Championship Series event in 2010 and has spent much of 2011 training at altitude in Costa Rica while living on a volcano.
- Gwen Jorgensen competed in her first-ever triathlon in March 2010 while working as a certified public accountant. Just 17 months later, she will toe the starting line in the first Olympic qualifying event for the U.S. in London on Aug. 6-7. A former All-American runner and swimmer at the University of Wisconsin, Jorgensen has been a fast study in the sport of triathlon. She was identified by USA Triathlon’s Collegiate Recruitment Program, which is run by Athens Olympian Barb Lindquist, and has experienced immediate success. Jorgensen has finished in the top five in nine of her 13 career ITU events, all while working part-time as a CPA.
- Olympic hopefuls Sarah Haskins and Jillian Petersen both hail from St. Louis and have been competing in the same circles since their middle-school days. Haskins, who is two years older than Petersen, has served as a mentor and motivating factor for Petersen, whether it was club swimming, high school cross country or making the leap to triathlon. Petersen even stayed with Haskins and her husband in 2008 prior to earning resident status at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
- Matt Chrabot had a series of breakout performances over the final months of the 2009 season with victories at the USA Triathlon Elite National Championship and the ITU Huatulco World Cup. His elite nationals win in Tuscaloosa resulted in a spot on the USA Triathlon National Team, and Chrabot has not disappointed over the past two seasons. After opening 2010 with a victory at the Miami International Triathlon in March, the former George Mason University swimmer has carried that success into the ITU circuit. The Virginia Beach, Va., native finished ninth in the Sydney World Championship Series event and grabbed second in the Monterrey World Cup race over consecutive weekends in April 2010. He was the top American male and 12th overall in the 2010 ITU World Championship Series Rankings.
- Since its inclusion as an Olympic sport in the 2000 Games, the sport of triathlon has skyrocketed in popularity. USA Triathlon annual membership has increased more than six-fold from 21,341 in 2000 to more than 140,000 in 2010. USA Triathlon sanctioned 3,500 events in 2010, and the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association estimated that nearly 2.9 million Americans participated in a triathlon in 2010.
National Team Athletes – Current Residence/Hometown
- Greg Bennett – Boulder, Colo./Sydney, Australia
- Laura Bennett – Boulder, Colo./North Palm Beach, Fla.
- Matt Chrabot – Colorado Springs, Colo./Virginia Beach, Va.
- Sarah Groff – Hanover, N.H./Cooperstown, N.Y.
- Sarah Haskins – Colorado Springs, Colo./St. Louis, Mo.
- Hunter Kemper – Colorado Springs, Colo./Orlando, Fla.
- Jarrod Shoemaker – Maynard, Mass./Sudbury, Mass.
Project 2012 Athletes – Current Residence/Hometown
- Kevin Collington – Boulder, Colo./Orlando, Fla.
- Ben Collins – Colorado Springs, Colo./Seattle, Wash.
- Chris Foster – Redondo Beach, Calif./Severna Park, Md.
- Manuel Huerta – Miami, Fla./Miami, Fla.
- Gwen Jorgensen – Milwaukee, Wis./Milwaukee, Wis.
- Alicia Kaye – Maynard, Mass./Pickering, Ont.
- Jenna Parker – Santa Monica, Calif./Sudbury, Mass.
- Jillian Petersen – Colorado Springs, Colo./St. Louis, Mo.
- Steven Sexton – Berkeley, Calif./Davis, Calif.
Athletes are constantly racing to earn points to improve their standing on the ITU Olympic Qualification List, which can help assure the U.S. of earning the maximum three slots per gender at the 2012 Olympic Games. At the 2011 London World Championship Series event (Aug. 6-7), the two highest-placing eligible U.S. athletes per gender will qualify for the Games, provided they place among the event’s top-nine finishers. Any eligible athlete who did not qualify in London and places in the top nine at a to-be-determined ITU World Championship Series event in the spring of 2012 will qualify for the team.
Any slots available following the automatic-selection process will be filled by discretionary selection. Discretionary selections could entail potential medalists or an athlete who can assist the medal-potential athletes through specific team tactics. If there is still a spot (or spots) remaining after the two qualification events and one discretionary selection, they are awarded based on placing at the 2012 event.
- Aug. 6-7, 2011: London ITU World Championship Series (First qualifier for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team)
- Sept. 10-11, 2011: Beijing ITU World Championship Series Grand Final (The world’s best square off on the 2008 Olympic course)
- Sept. 24, 2011: USA Triathlon Elite National Championship – Buffalo, N.Y. (Top Americans aim for the title of national champion in race No. 4 of the USA Triathlon Elite Race Series)
- Oct. 23, 2011: Pan American Games – Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (Olympic qualifying points and team spots are on the line for the best athletes in the Americas)
- Spring 2012 (The second qualifier for the U.S. Olympic Team will be held at a to-be-determined ITU World Championship Series event in the spring of 2012)
Athlete Social Media
National Team Athletes
- Greg Bennett - @GregBennett1
- Laura Bennett - @LauraRBennett
- Matt Chrabot - @mattchrabot
- Sarah Groff - @sgroffy
- Sarah Haskins - @sarahhaskinstri
- Hunter Kemper - @hunterkemper
- Jarrod Shoemaker - @jarrodshoemaker
Project 2012 Athletes
- Kevin Collington - @KevinCollington
- Ben Collins - @tribc
- Chris Foster - @cfosterracing
- Manuel Huerta - @trimanny
- Gwen Jorgensen - @gwenjorgensen
- Alicia Kaye - @AliciaKayeTri
- Jenna Parker - @JennaParkerLive
- Jillian Petersen - @roadrunnerjp
- Steven Sexton - @trisexton