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Elites Ready to Contend for Spots on Olympic Team

April 18, 2008, 12 a.m. (ET)

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (April 18 2008) Twenty-one of the top triathletes in the country are ready to toe the line and compete for two Olympic team spots – one for a U.S. man and one for an American woman – at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials on Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The women’s race starts at noon while the men’s race begins at 2:30 p.m.

The winners of the men’s and women’s races will join previous qualifiers Jarrod Shoemaker (Sudbury, Mass.) and Laura Bennett (N. Palm Beach, Fla. / Boulder, Colo.) on the Beijing-bound U.S. team. The final male and female Olympic team members will be determined after the Hy-Vee Triathlon on June 22 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Andy Potts (Princeton, N.J. / Colorado Springs, Colo.), who was on the 2004 Olympic team in Athens and finished 2007 as the second-ranked U.S. man in the world, discussed the Olympic Trials experience.

“The Trials is a very daunting process and a very trying process. It’s founded on what this country is founded on in terms of a merit-oriented system where you earn the right to represent your country at the Olympics and that’s why we have such a strong team in every sport at the Olympics,” Potts said. “I’m just happy to be on the start line to try to earn a spot.”

After viewing the course in Tuscaloosa and training on it, the athletes acknowledged similarities to the course in Beijing.

“The hill is something that we were expecting,” said Julie Swail Ertel (Irvine, Calif.), who was a second alternate on the 2004 Olympic triathlon team and won a silver medal in water polo at the 2000 Games. “We’ve raced the course in Beijing and it does effectively mimic that hill. The Beijing hill is slightly longer, but the grade is about the same. Even the flatter section in the middle is similar to Beijing.”

As part of the Tuscaloosa Tri-Palooza, the athletes have been busy with activities throughout the week. They have donated their time to Tuscaloosa-area elementary schools by speaking to children about life as a triathlete and Olympic hopeful. The athletes distributed autographed playing cards to the kids and invited them to join the activities, including a parade, leading up to race day.

Competitors for both the USAT Collegiate Nationals and the Olympic Trials race were part of a parade and Opening Ceremonies on Thursday evening near the Athlete Village. Former elite triathletes Wes Hobson and Susan Williams emceed the event and introduced the Olympic hopefuls to the crowd. In addition to appearances by Walt Maddox, the mayor of Tuscaloosa and Miss Tuscaloosa Stephanie Shelton, local dance groups also performed before local band “95 Reasons” took the stage.

Slowtwitch.com will provide live updates throughout both the men's and women's races.

Other events for the weekend include:
• Pasta Party from 6 – 8 p.m. Friday in the Athlete Village
• Collegiate National Championship at 7 a.m. Saturday
• U.S. Olympic Trials – Elite Women at noon Saturday
• U.S. Olympic Trials – Elite Men at 2:30 p.m. Saturday
• Tuscaloosa Triathlon – 8 a.m. Sunday
• Twenty-12 Talent ID race – women at 11:30 a.m. Sunday
• Twenty-12 Talent ID race – men at 1 p.m. Sunday

All times are Central.

Find out more about the Olympic Trials events.

Find out more about the Olympic qualification process and the athletes competing at Trials.

Find out more about Collegiate Nationals and the other Tuscaloosa Tri-Palooza activities.