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Baker and the USA Triathlon Sport Performance staff are keeping tabs on the key players on the ITU Olympic Qualification List and update a chart weekly to share with the athletes. The goal is to keep the top five athletes motivated to boost their ranking as highly as possible in case one of the top three athletes is injured.


For the first time, the top five ranked U.S. athletes received a cash bonus at the end of 2010.


Once that ultra-complex process comes to an end on May 31, 2012, it is up to each nation to determine how to fill its Olympic slots. The only stipulation from the ITU is that the athletes must be ranked among the top 125 of the Olympic Qualification List to be eligible for the Games.


Like the U.S., many countries will fill at least a portion of their slots through individual qualifying events. The first chance for an American to punch a ticket to the Olympics will come at the August 2011 London event. The top two U.S. finishers per gender, provided they place in the top nine of the race, will earn U.S. spots on the starting line.


“It makes sense to have something mimicking the actual Games both competition-wise and course-wise,” said Baker, who believes many nations will use the London event as a qualifier, making the field full of the world’s best Olympic-distance athletes.


For slots remaining after the London selection event, any eligible American athlete who did not qualify in London and places in the top nine at a to-be-determined ITU World Cup or World Championship Series event between March 1-May 31, 2012, will automatically qualify for the Olympic team. Selection event No. 2 will be named within one week of the release of the 2012 ITU schedule.


Up to one remaining spot for both the men’s and women’s teams will be filled at the discretion of the USA Triathlon Elite Athlete Selection Committee, with any remaining spots allotted by order of finish at the second selection event.


If necessary, the discretionary selections could entail potential medalists or an athlete who can assist the medal-potential athletes through team tactics, similar to a domestique in cycling.


Throughout the development of the selection criteria, USA Triathlon actively sought input from its elite athletes. The goal for both sides was to build criteria that was fair and assured the U.S. of having its best possible shot at a medal in London. With the feedback from athletes playing a key role, a 10-person committee of current and former athletes and USA Triathlon staff finalized the criteria, which was in turn approved by USA Triathlon’s Athlete Advisory Council and the USAT Board of Directors.


The fact that USA Triathlon gave its prospective Olympians a chance to help shape the qualification standards went a long way with athletes like Groff.


“All throughout this process, the USAT staff has been incredibly receptive to the feedback of the athletes,” Groff said. “No qualification system is perfect, and there will always be people who are upset along the way. By involving the athletes in the development of the qualification criteria; however, USAT has been able to ensure that athletes who would potentially earn an Olympic spot have a role in the process.”


With the process set and the USA Triathlon staff serving as a key resource along the way, the winding road to London resumes this spring.


John Martin is the communications and media relations manager at USA Triathlon. Martin joined the USAT staff in January 2010 after working for six years as an assistant director of athletic communications at the University of North Carolina, his alma mater.


USATRIATHLON.ORG USA TRIATHLON 59

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