COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Longtime multisport coaches Mark Sortino, Christine Palmquist and Wesley Johnson and bike mechanic James Balentine will serve in key staff roles for the first-ever U.S. Paralympic Triathlon Team at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Paralympic Games.
The four individuals met the criteria outlined in the selection documents created by USA Triathlon and approved by the U.S. Olympic Committee. To be considered for the coaching role, an individual was required to have previous experience coaching paratriathletes at the international level, as well as a proven record of performance with USA Triathlon and the USOC and a USA Triathlon Level II coaching certification or higher. Candidates for the mechanic position were required to have expertise in sport-specific maintenance and repair of racing chairs, daily use wheelchairs, handcycles, tandems and upright bicycles, as well as a thorough knowledge of paratriathlon sport terminology.
“We had great interest in the coach and mechanic roles for our first ever Paralympic triathlon team, and we are confident that we are bringing the most talented individuals who are the best fit for our team's debut,” said Amanda Duke Boulet, USA Triathlon Paratriathlon Program Senior Manager and team leader for the 2016 U.S. Paralympic Triathlon Team. “Each has a unique skill set that complements the others, and with that, we not only have a gold medal capable team, but a gold medal capable staff to support them.”
Sortino (Boise, Idaho) will be the head coach for the 2016 U.S. Paralympic Triathlon Team. He is a USA Triathlon Level III Certified Coach and the head coach, co-founder and CEO of Team MPI. Sortino has served as the head coach for USA Paratriathlon for ITU World Championship events since 2012, and regularly coaches athletes who are competing in Rio this month. In addition to his role as the head coach at international events, Sortino has also served as the head coach for nearly 15 USA Paratriathlon High Performance Camps since 2012 and at Challenged Athlete Foundation (CAF) camps since 2010.
"It's a great opportunity to be a part of the debut of paratriathlon in the Paralympic Games, as well Team USA's powerful and energetic team,” Sortino said. “We've got a great group and are excited to race!"
Palmquist (Geneva, Ill.) will be one of two assistant coaches for triathletes competing in Rio. She has been a USA Triathlon Level III Certified Coach since 2009 and brings 19 years of coaching experience to the team, with success at state, regional, national and international events. Palmquist is also a coach with Team MPI and has coached paratriathletes at ITU World Paratriathlon Events, as well as Dare2tri and CAF adult and youth camps.
Johnson (Salt Lake City, Utah) is the other assistant coach for the U.S. Paralympic Triathlon Team. A USA Triathlon Level II Certified Coach, Johnson is the head coach and owner of Balanced Art Multisport out of Utah and individually coaches two members of the Rio-bound Paralympic Triathlon Team. Johnson also served as the assistant coach for USA Paratriathlon training camps held in 2015, as well as the 2015 Rio de Janeiro ITU World Paratriathlon Event, 2015 Chicago ITU Paratriathlon World Championships and 2016 Sarasota CAMTRI Paratriathlon Continental Championships.
Balentine (Austin, Texas) brings more than a decade of cycling expertise to his role as the bike mechanic, where he will assist athletes in ensuring their cycling equipment is in proper working order. Balentine is currently the service manager at the Bicycle World in Austin, Texas, and has served as the team mechanic for a number of international events for Team USA, both at the elite and age-group levels.
Additional support staff for the 2016 U.S. Paralympic Triathlon Team includes Elizabeth Broad, sport dietitian; Andy Gerken, M.D., team physician; Cassandra Johnson, USA Triathlon Content Coordinator and team press attaché; and Sara Mitchell, sport physiologist. Elite triathletes Jessica Jones Meyers and Jillian Petersen will serve as guides for visually impaired athletes Patricia Walsh and Elizabeth Baker, and Caron Schabort and Mark Griffin will be PT1 handlers for Krige Schabort.
For more on the U.S. Paralympic Triathlon Team, visit usatriathlon.org/rio2016.
About USA Triathlon
USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the National Governing Body for triathlon, as well as duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, winter triathlon, off-road triathlon and paratriathlon in the United States. Founded in 1982, USA Triathlon sanctions more than 4,300 races and connects with nearly 500,000 members each year, making it the largest multisport organization in the world. In addition to its work with athletes, coaches, and race directors on the grassroots level, USA Triathlon provides leadership and support to elite athletes competing at international events, including International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championships, Pan American Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of the ITU and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).