Beginning a few months ago, people began asking questions regarding the upcoming Olympics. The most common form came out like this. “So, what time is your event down in Rio?”
“Um, I’m not going,” would come to mind and come out of my mouth, but that response didn’t answer the “why not?” that everyone seemed to ask. Delivering a monolog that addressed incorrect assumptions gracefully isn’t always easy. The question got asked so many times that I feel a need to get the publish the answer.
- Sadly, duathlon is not currently an Olympic Sport. Most sports are not Olympic Sports, for that matter. There is no bowling (America’s most actively participated in sport) nor football (America’s most financially invested sport). The best we get as duathlete is to compete in World Championships, and those are yearly.
- Skill and money play huge roles in Olympic participation. Olympians are typically the most elite athletes in a sport, but being the best is not enough. For single person events, like Triathlon, in a best case scenario, a country gets to send 3 people. Few countries don’t get to send that many, and most countries send no one at all. Most sports don’t support a financially viable pro league, or if there is a league, it requires supplemental income and sponsorship to make things work. One of the outcomes of great likelihood is to meet a former Olympian and learn that he/she is broke. We don’t get the best of the best training and support without raising money on our own to pay for what we think will give us an edge. There is some assistance from national groups and governments, (in my case, USA Triathlon helps elite athletes), but it doesn’t cover all the costs, or even come close. More than one athlete has missed a game because they ran out of money.
- I am an age group competitor, meaning I may get to know and hang out with the elite athletes who get to go, but in my sport, no way is a 50-year-old is heading to the Olympics as an elite endurance athlete. I don’t have the VO2 max of the young kids out there…even if I do beat them, now and then. In any given sport, there may be a few hundred people who get to do TeamUSA competitions, and of those, only a small handful ever get to by Olympians.
The people who make up TeamUSA are the best part of most events. Here are some stories of the people who participated in the 2016 Powerman Duathlon World Championships.
Ben and Sarah Looney are professional chefs/nutritionists from Texas. As you can imagine, they eat well and workout hard. Their fitness is obvious. Both of them qualified for Zofingen, and they decided to save their money and jointly compete this last year. They travelled with another couple, Julie and Monty Hardy, as Money was also competing, and the two couples knew each from other events.
Ben and Sarah were working together when he began chasing her. Ben learned that Sarah’s dad was an Ironman guy, and he was the one that encouraged Sarah to take up triathlon. Ben had always had an inkling of interest in multisport racing but hadn’t pursued it with any zeal. According to Ben, “I figured what better way to get close to her than by hanging out with her dad and training with them both. I had ulterior motives, but in the process became really passionate about duathlon and triathlon, as well as Sarah. I actually asked her dad to go on a training ride and at the end asked him if I could marry his daughter. The rest is history!” What a brilliant idea to ask your future father in law a real important “yes or no” question when he is on a natural high!
Sarah Looney views the suffering of long race competition with an attitude that the rest of us could learn from. She shared with me, “I try to remember those that are suffering more than I am, who can’t just quit when things get hard – like my Grandma who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, a friend battling cancer – they can’t just say “this disease is harder than I thought, I think I’ll stop for a while.” And of course I’d be lying if I didn’t say that a good post-race breakfast or a nice glass of wine doesn’t push me towards the finish line …just kidding! But seriously ;)”
They two of them hope to compete and do future races together.
Cora Sturlz is a “seasoned” athlete (meaning, she is old, like me!), with a long history of competition. Cora has competed in Nordic skiing, road biking, basketball, and a few paddling races and says she was known as “Velcro hands” when she played women’s soccer. I know her as the woman who played the role of everyone’s friend during the last two Worlds in Zofingen. Cora demonstrates both with actions and words that no matter how bad the race is (rain, suffering on mountains, etc), she has a look on her face that says, “I can do this, and so can you!” Cora says, “just focusing on the next step or breath and coming back to the now usually helps with the harder moments.”
Cora has finished Powerman Zofingen 4 times, now. Her goal is to join the jubilee club for people who complete the Powerman Zofingen 10 times. She encourages other Americans at qualifying event to give Powerman Zofingen a fair try. Even though nearly a quarter of all athletes dropping out of the race, Cora is confident. Her goal of joining the Jubilee club has an attitude of confidence built into it that she will not become a statistic during any of her 10 years of trying.
Her inspiration to race has been documented by local Washington State newspapers as well as others on TeamUSA who get to hang out with her before and after events. She says, “I guess multisport has taught me to roll with the punches, and be self-sufficient. Each successive race was another learning experience and I’m not sure the lessons can be learned without the experiences. I read everything I could find on multisport. If I could, I would tell other women looking to get into multisport to just wear the same outfit for each leg of the race!”
Cora’s history of no-so-healthy living is documented. She used to smoke and ignore signs that her health was degrading. Cora found a magic moment when she was departing her 20s when she decided to make the change. The rest in now history, and her uniform proves it.
World Championship experiences can’t be recreated, as they are all so different. However, the relationships we make can last us all of our lives. Cora is loved by all and her encouraging attitude lifts the spirits of those who are nervous. Every TeamUSA needs a Cora in the lineup!
Next time, I will profile a couple of other athletes and share with you what I have heard from them. Stay tuned.