US Olympic Triathlon Team 2012: Updated News & Analysis for America's Squad

Gil ImberAnalyst IIJune 25, 2012

US Olympic Triathlon Team 2012: Updated News & Analysis for America's Squad

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    Run, cycle, swim. Sounds easy enough, no?

    Conceived in San Diego as a six-mile dash, five-mile bicycle race and 500-yard swim, the modern triathlon is a grueling event and a recent addition to the Olympic calendar, debuting at the 2000 Sydney games.

    Since that time, only one American has ever captured a top-three finish, with Californian Susan Williams taking home the 2004 Athens bronze on the women's side.

    Will 2012 produce another triathlon medal for Team USA?

Key Athletes

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    In their quest to return to the Olympic podium, the Americans will feature a cast of veteran triathletes. Top-ranked components include:

    Sarah Groff (Pictured)

    Cooperstown native Sarah Groff will be the United States' best shot at a triathlon medal in London, having already captured third place in the 2011 ITU World Championship Series. Groff was the 2011 ITU Athlete of the Year and is considered No. 1 by USA Triathlon.

    In 2011, Groff was rated the third-best female triathlete in the world, though she placed 15th at the May 11, 2012 ITU World Triathlon in San Diego.

    Hunter Kemper

    A seven-time USA Triathlon Elite National Champion and former Pan Am Games gold medalist, 36-year-old Hunter Kemper joins Canadian Simon Whitfield as one of only two men to have qualified for all four Olympic triathlons. Kemper represented Team USA in 2000, '04, '08 and once more in London this year. Kemper placed seventh in 2008 Beijing.

    In 2011, Kemper was rated the 45th best triathlete in the world, though in three events in 2012, Kemper has already leapfrogged to the No. 27 spot.

    Other USA Triathlon Athletes

    Laura Bennett and Gwen Jorgensen will accompany Groff on the women's side. Bennett finished eigth to Groff's third in 2011, and recently earned a 2011 season-best fifth-place finish at the 2011 WCS Grand Final in Beijing. Jorgensen ranked 11th last year and finished fourth at the 2011 Pan Am Games in Puerto Vallarta.

    Meanwhile, Manuel Huerta will join Kemper in London. Born in Havana, Cuba, Huerta placed second at this year's Dallas ITU Pan Am Cup, ranking 35th overall in the World Triathlon Series.

US Chances and Challengers in London

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    Since its inception as an Olympic sport in 2000, triathlon has generally been dominated by Australia (four overall medals) and New Zealand (three)—with one glaring exception.

    Canadian Simon Whitfield is one of just two triathletes to have won multiple medals in the event; Whitfield won gold at the inaugural 2000 Games and repeated with a silver in 2008. In between, he also claimed gold at the 2002 Commonwealth Games and bronze at the 2009 World Team Championships in Des Moines, claiming 14 World Cup victories along the way.

    The other multi-medaling triathlete is New Zealander Bevan Docherty, a multiple World Cup and World Championship winner and winner of the 2004 silver and 2008 bronze.

    The most intriguing rivalry in the triathlon is indeed between Whitfield and Docherty, which may very well leave the American men in the dust.

    On the women's side, Australian Emma Moffatt will return to the Olympic stage in London, hoping to repeat as a 2008 medalist on the heels of former teammate Emma Snowsill, who won gold that year.

    Earlier this month, Snowsill was shockingly shut out from the Australian national team and her subsequent appeal to the Triathlon Australian Appeals Tribunal was dismissed. Absence from the Australian team will leave the door open for the Americans to sneak in and swipe the bronze.

Prediction

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    The American men will not win a medal in triathlon in London. Expect Whitfield and Docherty to compete for two of the three top spots, while Spain's Javier Gomez makes a surprise push for the podium. Gomez is a two-time World Champion and barely missed out on a Beijing medal, placing fourth in 2008. The 29-year-old Spanish phenom is perhaps the future face of triathlon.

    As for the women, the door may very well be wide open. Canadian Paula Findlay—winner of multiple ITU events in 2011—may be to female triathletes what Javier is on the other side, though Findlay is just 23 years old. Expect Findlay and Emma Moffatt to contend for two of the top three spots, which gives American Sarah Groff an outside shot at claiming Team USA's second triathlon medal.