COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - With Olympic dreams on the line, 14 of the United States' top triathletes will square off against a top-notch international field May 11-12 at the inaugural ITU World Triathlon San Diego, which serves as the second and final automatic qualifier for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team.
The women's race will be held Friday, May 11 at 2 p.m., followed by the men Saturday, May 12 at 2:30 p.m. The Olympic-distance (1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike, 10-kilometer run) elite race fields are comprised of 70 athletes per gender.
2012 U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team qualifiers Sarah Groff (Hanover, N.H.) and Gwen Jorgensen (Milwaukee Wis.) will use the race as a tune-up for London 2012, while six others will look to claim the third and final spot on the U.S. women's roster for the Games - Laura Bennett (Boulder, Colo.), Sarah Haskins (Colorado Springs, Colo.), Lindsey Jerdonek (Sagamore Hills, Ohio), Jillian Petersen (Colorado Springs, Colo.), Kaitlin Shiver (Melbourne, Fla.) and Kelly Whitley (Colorado Springs, Colo.). Bennett and Haskins were members of the 2008 Olympic Team.
A top-nine finish on the women's side will automatically qualify an athlete for the Games. If multiple athletes place in the top nine, the top finisher will earn a spot on the U.S. roster. If no U.S. women place in the top nine in San Diego, the final spot on the Olympic roster will be filled by a discretionary selection by the USA Triathlon Elite Athlete Selection Committee.
The men's field features six Americans racing for a spot on the starting line in London - Ethan Brown (Lowell, Mass.), Matt Chrabot (Colorado Springs, Colo.), Mark Fretta (Colorado Springs, Colo.), Manuel Huerta (Miami, Fla.), Hunter Kemper (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Jarrod Shoemaker (Clermont, Fla.). Kemper is a three-time Olympian, while Shoemaker was a member of Team USA in Beijing. Visit triathlon.org for a complete men's start list.
The first U.S. male to cross the finish line in San Diego will be London bound, regardless of placing. Two men can qualify for the U.S. Olympic roster in San Diego, provided they both place in the top nine. If necessary, any remaining spots will be filled by a discretionary selection by the USA Triathlon Elite Athlete Selection Committee.
Additional U.S. athletes could roll onto the start list for San Diego, depending on the number of withdrawals from athletes currently slated to compete.
One of just eight ITU World Triathlon Series events in 2012, the ITU World Triathlon San Diego also will play a key role in determining the Olympic squads for a number of other nations, as it is the second-to-last ITU World Triathlon Series event prior to the closing of the ITU's 2012 Olympic qualification window at the end of May.
Universal Sports will broadcast the races on tape-delay. The women's event will air May 19; the men's race May 20. Both races will be streamed live online and will be available on-demand at UniversalSports.com.
Set for the morning of Saturday, May 12, top-flight Olympic- and sprint-distance age group races, as well as an Olympic-distance relay, will offer amateurs the chance to compete in the same epic venue as the world's best athletes at the ITU World Triathlon San Diego.
U.S. Athletes Currently on the ITU World Triathlon San Diego Start List:
Laura Bennett (37, Boulder, Colo.)
After placing fourth at the Beijing Games, Laura Bennett has been the most consistent U.S. performer on the ITU World Triathlon Series circuit over the past two seasons with eight top-eight finishes over 2010 and 2011. She finished 2011 ranked eighth in the ITU World Triathlon Series rankings and captured her third USA Triathlon Elite National Championship title.
Ethan Brown (26, Lowell, Mass.)
Ethan Brown opened 2012 with three top-eight ITU Pan American Cup finishes - second in Ilheus, eighth in Bridgetown and seventh in Vina Del Mar - to become the fourth-ranked American on the ITU Points List (as of April 30). The two-time USA Triathlon Under-23 National Championship winner (2007, 2008), was fifth in the final standings for the 2011 USA Triathlon Elite Race Series. He is seeking his first Olympic berth.
Matt Chrabot (28, Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Matt Chrabot is currently the highest-ranked U.S. male on the ITU Olympic Qualification List (15th as of April 30), Chrabot owns a trio of ITU World Triathlon Series top-10 finishes and has added three ITU World Cup podium showings over the 2010-11 seasons. He is seeking his first Olympic berth.
Mark Fretta (34, Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Mark Fretta was a member of the U.S. roster for the 2011 Pan American Games and earned top-10 finishes at the Lima (fourth) and Salinas (eighth) ITU Pan American Cups in 2011. Fretta is one of only two American men to ever hold the No. 1 spot in the ITU world rankings, as he held the top spot in May-June 2006 before suffering a season-ending injury. He is seeking his first Olympic berth.
Sarah Groff (30, Hanover, N.H.)
Sarah Groff placed seventh at the 2011 London ITU World Triathlon Series event to clinch a spot on the 2012 U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team. She went on to finish third in the ITU WTS rankings for the first-ever series podium finish by an American. Groff was the most consistent U.S. performer in 2011 with five top-10 finishes on the WTS circuit.
Sarah Haskins (31, Colorado Springs, Colo.)
A member of Team USA for the Beijing Games, Sarah Haskins is coming off a 2011 season which saw her win a career-best seven races, including the Pan American Games and the Monterrey ITU World Cup. Haskins finished sixth in the 2009 ITU World Triathlon Series rankings and was 14th in 2010. She placed 11th at the Beijing Games.
Manuel Huerta (28, Miami, Fla.)
Manuel Huerta was named USA Triathlon's Elite Athlete of the Year for 2011 and capped his season with a silver medal at the Pan American Games. He finished the year as the No. 3 American in the ITU World Triathlon Series rankings and was the top U.S. men's performer at the London and Kitzbühel WTS stops. Huerta recorded four top-16 finishes in ITU World Cup events a year ago. He is seeking his first Olympic berth.
Lindsey Jerdonek (27, Sagamore Hills, Ohio)
A member of the USA Triathlon Project 2016 program, Lindsey Jerdonek will make her ITU World Triathlon Series debut in San Diego. She placed 13th at the 2012 PATCO Pan American Championships on Jan. 15 and owns three career ITU Pan American Cup podium finishes - Myrtle Beach and Kelowna in 2011 and San Francisco in 2009. She is seeking her first Olympic berth.
Gwen Jorgensen (26, Milwaukee, Wis.)
Gwen Jorgensen burst onto the triathlon scene in 2011 with a runner-up finish at the London ITU World Triathlon Series event to earn a spot on the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team. Her second-place finish on the Olympic course in London is the best-ever showing for a U.S. woman in a WTS event. Jorgensen finished 2011 ranked 11th in the ITU World Triathlon Series rankings, and picked up where she left off in 2012 with a fourth-place finish at the ITU World Triathlon Sydney. Jorgensen owns top-eight finishes in 20 of 23 career ITU events and has finished on the podium on eight occasions.
Hunter Kemper (36 (on May 4), Colorado Springs, Colo.)
The only three-time Olympian in U.S. triathlon history, Hunter Kemper is the top U.S. men's finisher in all three previous Olympic triathlons with a top showing of seventh in Beijing. Hampered by injury for much of the past three seasons, Kemper has proven he can still compete with the world's best when healthy as evidenced by three ITU World Cup podium finishes in 2011, including his first ITU World Cup win since 2005 in Ishigaki, Japan.
Jillian Petersen (29, Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Jillian Petersen opened her 2012 season with a runner-up finish at the 2012 La Paz Pan American Championships on Jan. 13. Petersen, who was seventh at last year's Ishigaki ITU World Cup, wrapped up the 2011 ITU World Triathlon Series as the fifth American and No. 52 overall. She is seeking her first Olympic berth.
Kaitlin Shiver (22, Melbourne, Fla.)
Kaitlin Shiver will make her ITU World Triathlon Series debut in San Diego after earning the 2011 USA Triathlon Under-23 National Championship title and the 2011 USA Triathlon Collegiate National Championship crown. Shiver was fourth at the ITU Under-23 World Championships a year ago. She is seeking her first Olympic berth.
Jarrod Shoemaker (29, Clermont, Fla.)
After battling a concussion and neck injury during the 2011 campaign, Jarrod Shoemaker has returned to form early in 2012 with a win at the Clermont (Fla.) ITU Pan American Cup and a 10th-place finish at the ITU World Triathlon Sydney. The only American to win an ITU World Triathlon Series event (Hamburg, 2009), Shoemaker placed 18th at the Beijing Olympic Games and owns nine career ITU WTS top-10 finishes. He is the No. 2 U.S. male on the ITU Olympic Qualification List (18th as of April 30).
Kelly Whitley (19, Colorado Springs, Colo.)
At 19, Kelly Whitley is the youngest athlete in the women's field and will make her ITU World Triathlon Series debut in San Diego. She was named USA Triathlon's Rookie of the Year and Junior Athlete of the Year in 2011 after winning the USA Triathlon Junior Elite National Championship title, placing fifth at the ITU Junior World Championships and recording three top-seven ITU Pan American Cup finishes. The 2010 Youth Olympic Games bronze medalist and member of the Colorado Springs-based Elite Triathlon Academy is seeking her first Olympic berth.
Photo Credit: (Rich Cruse/ITU)