Andy had a fast rise to fame, but he had to perform to get World Cup entry. Prior to entering a World Cup race, you must be recognized as an elite athlete by USA Triathlon.
One of the major issues for athletes traveling the world and attempting to accumulate ranking points is the cost of travel. There is some funding available, and the funds depend on results and sustained performance. Details on the various National Teams programs can be found on the USA Triathlon website.
Since I can't make it to Beijing, I'm aiming for 2012. What can I start doing now?
The specific USA selection process for the 2012 Olympic Games may change from the current model for Beijing in 2008. No matter the specific process, you still need the physical and mental ability to compete at top levels. Assuming the basic process remains the same, here is how to start:
- Race well nationally and at well-recognized races, starting as early as now. This is so you can register and be recognized as an elite athlete.
- Racing well also earns you some sponsorship dollars. Having someone that you trust to help you with the logistics of sponsorship is a big help. Some athletes use agents, a trusted friend, a spouse or a significant other to help out.
- Because ITU racing is draft-legal, it is critical that you hone your bike racing skills.
- Once you are recognized as an elite athlete by USA Triathlon, you can then begin ITU racing by entering Continental Cup races. In 2008, there are 48 Continental Cup races and only 14 World Cup races. High placement in Continental Cup races can help you secure a spot on the starting line for a World Cup race. Additionally, there are spaces considered for emerging-talent athletes. If you're new on the ITU racing scene, this consideration gives you a chance.
The four bullets make it seem easy to qualify for the 2012 Olympic team; but I assure you, it is a tough road for most athletes. In fact, I can't think of a single athlete on any of the U.S.A. teams who has said that making the Olympic Team was "easy".
Now that you know what it takes to be eligible as an individual athlete to try for a spot on the team, in the next column of this series I will go into more detail about the actual 2008 USA Triathlon Olympic Team selection process.