Designing the Olympic Selection Process

Another downside to a single trials race is that an athlete can have a mechanical failure on the bike that knocks them out of contention. Through no fault of their own, a potential medal winner is eliminated from the competition.

Coach or Committee Selection Process

In the coach or committee selection process, an individual or a group of individuals selects the Olympic team based on a set of criteria. The criteria might include ITU World Ranking, performance on courses similar to the Olympic course, the subjective opinion of teamwork ability, sport strength as it relates to the course and other considerations.

This option often allows athletes to overcome a single disappointing race with multiple events to prove themselves, but it can leave the selection committees in a bind when there is no clear-cut favorite (New Zealand is experiencing this problem in their own process.)

The Final, Original Process

The original selection committee selected three races as the Olympic selection process. The first race was the 2007 Beijing World Cup event. This race was an Olympic team selection race for many countries. Jarrod Shoemaker (11th overall) and Laura Bennett (3rd overall) were the first Americans across the finish line and therefore achieved Olympic team slots.

The second race originally was the Honolulu Continental Cup, slated for April of 2008. Although not a World Cup race, ITU ranking points were still to be awarded. The first American male and female across the finish line would have earned an Olympic team slot. If these athletes were the same as the Beijing race, the spots rolled down.

The third race is the 2008 Hy-Vee Triathlon in Des Moines, Iowa. Unlike in Beijing, this race does not award the first male and female across the finish line a team spot. Rather, a points system based on the individual's placement among U.S.A. athletes in the previous two selection events will determine who claims the third and final slot on the U.S. Olympic triathlon team. Details on this system can be found in the document referenced earlier in the column.

The Amended Process

Apparently, Honolulu ran into trouble funding the Continental Cup race. This forced USAT to look for a different solution. Tuscaloosa, Alabama, replaced the Honolulu event and the race is scheduled for April 19, 2008.

Since I rolled off of the National Coaching Commission, I was not included in the amendment process. I cannot write about the logic surrounding the Tuscaloosa site selection. I can imagine that when Honolulu pulled the race, it was scramble time for USAT. They did the best they could with limited time.

Now, this makes for an interesting trials event in April. With no ITU ranking points on the line and no big money deals that I've heard about, there is not much incentive for foreign athletes to toe the line at this race—particularly for their personal world rank benefit.

Will any foreign athletes attend the event? If so, will they have an influence on the outcome of our U.S.A Olympic team selection process?

If no foreign athletes attend the event and it is a very small field of U.S. athletes, how do you think this could change the outcome of the event? What kind of athlete is favored in a small, U.S.A-only field?

The game has now changed. Who do you predict will take the next slots on the U.S.A Triathlon Olympic Team at the Tuscaloosa trials event?


Gale Bernhardt was the 2003 USA Triathlon Pan American Games and 2004 USA Triathlon Olympic coach for both the men's and women's teams. Her first Olympic experience was as a personal cycling coach at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Thousands of athletes have had successful training and racing experiences using Gale's pre-built, easy-to-follow training plans. For more information, click here. Let Gale and Active Trainer help you succeed.

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