U.S. Elites Visit New Zealand Schools Ahead of ITU World Cup

by USA Triathlon on 01 Apr, 2016 07:02 • EspaƱol

The second ITU World Cup of the 2016 season is set for this Sunday in New Plymouth, New Zealand, and six U.S. elite triathletes took time out of their race preparation to meet with local schoolchildren in the area and talk about their experience as professional athletes. Here’s what they had to say about their school visits:

Kaitlin Donner (Satellite Beach, Fla.)
Not only is New Plymouth a beautiful place to visit and train, but the LOC does a really great job of coordinating local school visits and integrating us into their community. I really wish more races would develop a similar structure since the kids always have a lot of great questions, and we really enjoying sharing our journey with them. I look forward to talking with the kids when coming here, and leave just as excited as they do! It is a real treat!

Erin Jones (Hood River, Ore.)
The last two years, I’ve loved having the opportunity to visit a school in the New Zealand community. I know when I was a student, I was grateful for encouragement and inspiration that I received. It’s so humbling for me to be able to share my experiences with these students. I hope they continue to dream big and pursue their passions in life.

Joe Maloy (Wildwood Crest, N.J.)
It was great to interact with the kids here in New Plymouth. The hectic travel schedule of competing on the ITU circuit gives you the opportunity to have an impact in so many different parts of the world.  I appreciated the students and administration welcoming our team into their school for some time with the students.  It was great to connect with kids on the other side of the world because of a sporting interest we both share.  We handed out awards to the winners of their interscholastic triathlon team and answered questions on everything from nutritional advice to pre-race music.  Eric [Lagerstrom] even related when asked if he ever has nervous breakdowns, “You know that feeling when you’ve missed lunch and you’re waiting for dinner and everything is getting on your nerves?  Well sometimes when I’m training really hard I feel like that for whole weeks at a time.”

John O’Neill (Vail, Colo.)
It really is an honor to stand in front of a classroom of kids and talk about my life as a professional American triathlete. But it as much an exercise of getting the kids excited about triathlon as it is the kids reducing the whole professional racing experience to simple moments. They ask questions like:

“What is your favorite place to race?”
“How fast can you go on your bike?”
“What is the scariest animal you’ve seen in the water?”
“Are you afraid of falling down or drowning?”

I spoke for two sessions, ages 7-8 and 9-10. We talked about triathlon and everything from what it is like to race in South America, Central America, Europe and Asia, to how old my dog, Annie, is in dog years.  I was able to wrap in some educational lessons about the difference between feet and meters, Fahrenheit and Celsius, even the northern hemisphere and the southern. Of course I bragged about the Denver Broncos and listened to the kids talk about the All Blacks [New Zealand’s national rugby team]. It was a special experience for the kids and certainly one I’ll remember, too.

Fourteen Americans – seven men and seven women – are on the start list to compete in Sunday’s ITU World Cup in New Plymouth, New Zealand. The sprint-distance event covers a 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike, 5-kilometer run, with start times set at 11 a.m. local time on April 3 (7 p.m. ET on April 2) for the elite women and 1 p.m. local time (9 p.m. ET on April 2) for the elite men. Race coverage will be available at triathlon.org/live.

Reigning ITU World Champion Gwen Jorgensen (St. Paul, Minn.) leads the U.S. contingent and is competing in her first ITU World Cup since a victory in 2014 in Mooloolaba, Australia. Jorgensen, who has already qualified for the U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team, has not lost a race since May 2014.

Donner is on the start list as the defending champion of the New Plymouth ITU World Cup. She has a win under her belt already this season from the CAMTRI Sprint Triathlon American Championships held earlier this month in Sarasota, Florida. Kirsten Kasper (North Andover, Mass.) is also on the start list with two podium finishes in two races so far this season, including the ITU World Cup season opener in Mooloolaba.

Also on the start list for the U.S. women are Jones, Summer Cook (Thornton, Colo.), Erin Dolan (Bentonville, Ark.) and Taylor Spivey (Redondo Beach, Calif.). 

In the men’s race, Greg Billington (Spokane, Wash.) will toe the line as the top American in his 2016 ITU debut. Billington leads the U.S. men in the USA Triathlon Objective Rankings System, and Maloy, Eric Lagerstrom (Portland, Ore.) and Ben Kanute (Geneva, Ill.), who are also vying for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team, are joining Billington on the start list this Sunday. Performances in New Plymouth may bolster the U.S. men’s position on the ITU’s Rio 2016 Olympic Qualification List, leading up to the final U.S. qualifier in Yokohama on May 14.

O’Neill, Sean Jefferson (Palisades, Calif.) and Nick Karwoski (Hollis, N.H.) are also on the start list for Sunday. V

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