Reflections on Making the 2016 Olympic Triathlon Team

By Katie Zaferes | June 23, 2016, 12:17 p.m. (ET)

It’s been exactly a month since I first found out I was selected for the Rio 2016 Olympic Team! When I got the initial phone call from our High Performance Director I remember just feeling relieved. It was a spot I felt like I deserved, and for it to be confirmed that I would be in the Olympics, I just felt a huge weight being lifted from my chest. I don’t even think it was just the week wait after our final Olympic selection event that was the most stressful. I realized I had probably been stressed since missing the auto qualification at the Rio test event in August 2015. When I realized I was actually going and my dreams were a reality, I felt my shoulders retract from my ears and breathing just felt easier.

The second emotional onset was excitement! This would be my first Olympics! I have no idea what to expect, but I know I get to go to an event surrounded by greatness. I feel pride in that I am going to get to represent my country in the company of the best from around the entire world in so many sports! It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I began to dream that one day I could go to the Olympics. This isn’t because I didn’t want to go to the Olympics, but because I had put Olympians on such a high pedestal that I never thought I would be worthy enough to be one of them. So for me to actually get to be a part of this small and special demographic just feels exhilarating!

Katie Zaferes

At the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado; where I lived and trained with the USA Triathlon Collegiate Recruitment Program (CRP).

I am also excited to go and represent the U.S. with such a strong USA Triathlon contingent. In 2015 I finished on the podium in the World Triathlon Series six times, but two of those times were more special than the others. In both Gold Coast and London we had an all-American podium. It was an amazing moment to listen to the national anthem play not just for the winner but for all three athletes up on those steps; those were my proudest moments. I am thrilled that I will get to race alongside both Sarah and Gwen again in Rio in pursuit of that same result.

True, Jorgensen and Zaferes celebrate podium sweep

Sarah, Gwen and I celebrate the podium sweep at WTS Gold Coast in Australia.

The most lasting and overwhelming feeling that I’ve had since qualifying for the Olympics has been gratitude. I am so grateful for all the experiences and opportunities that have led me to this result. I must say that for me, timing has been incredible and I thank God every day for the life I get to live because of it. When I graduated from Syracuse University I had no idea at the time what lay ahead for me. However, once I was contacted by the USA Triathlon Collegiate Recruitment Program and given the opportunity to live and train at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, I knew it was an opportunity I could not pass up. By being involved with this program my triathlon learning curve was accelerated and I am now going to the Olympics after just four years in the sport. 

Katie Zaferes

Ride through Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs during my time in the CRP. (Pictured left to right; Chelsea Burns, Me, Kyla Thoman, Justin Roeder, John O'Neill)

I am so thankful for all the coaches, resources, experts and assistance in general that have gotten me to this point. So many people have put in countless hours in order to help me develop as an athlete. I read a quote a while back that really stuck with me. It’s a quote from George Shunn and he said, “There is no such thing as a self-made [wo]man. You will reach your goals only with the help of others.” There are so many people who have been there for me throughout this journey. My family, friends, husband, coaches, teammates, sponsors, USA Triathlon staff, Syracuse University, Carroll County, Santa Cruz, California, and people from all around the world who have shown me support, love and encouragement. Every single person has helped me fulfill my goal of getting to the Olympics. 

Katie Zaferes

After a skill session at Memorial Park with Lindsay Hyman. Left to right (back row): Me, Lindsay Hyman, Justin Roeder, Kyla Thoman, (front row) John O’Neill, Alex Willis, Chelsea Burns.

Katie Zaferes

Practicing bike mounts on the grass at Memorial Park in Colorado Springs. This was one of the first times I ever learned the flying mount using rubber bands.

I’ve done quite a few interviews since qualifying. Many of the questions are the same, "How does it feel to be an Olympian? What am I most excited for? What are my goals? When did I know I could achieve this dream?” However recently I was approached by a woman who asked me a single question. “What matters most?” I waited for her to expand on the question, but that was it. It didn’t take me long to respond, “The people who surround me; my family, friends, teammates…” It is the amazing people in my life who make all these experiences a reality and make this journey worthwhile. 

Katie Zaferes Family

My family surprised me with a birthday/Olympic celebration in early June. It is a unique occasion when both Tommy and I's family is together, a memory that is so special to me.