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Posted: June 14, 2004
Triathlon: Plata, Williams Join the US Olympic Team
BELLINGHAM, Wash. (June 13, 2004) – U.S. elite triathlete Hunter Kemper and Great Britain’s Liz Blatchford won the race and Susan Williams and Victor Plata made the U.S. Olympic Team on Sunday at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Triathlon.
The race was the final qualifier for the U.S. Olympic triathlon team for the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, Greece. The men’s team will consist of Kemper (Longwood, Fla.), Andy Potts (Princeton, N.J.) and Plata (San Luis Obispo, Calif.). The women’s team will include Barb Lindquist (Alta, Wyo.), Sheila Taormina (Livonia, Mich.) and Williams (Littleton, Colo.).
Williams and Plata made the team by virtue of their finishes among Americans at the Race to Athens – Honolulu, combined with their finishes among the Americans in Bellingham.
Both Williams and Plata had tried unsuccessfully to make the 2000 Olympic team. Plata went to Sydney as the alternate to the U.S. team and Williams finished sixth at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Irving, Texas. It turned out she was pregnant with her daughter Sydney during the race.
“This was a dream race for me. It really hasn’t sunk in yet,” Williams said. “Now I will just train a little harder for the next few weeks and will celebrate a little bit.”
Sunday’s women’s race started as many had predicted, with Lindquist, the top-ranked woman in the world, exiting the water first, followed closely by world No. 2 Taormina, world No. 3 Laura Reback (North Palm Beach, Fla.), Williams and Blatchford. However, Taormina quickly pulled out of the race on the first lap of the bike due to shin splints. During the first trip up “Alabama Hill,” which has an 18 percent grade, Reback tried to make her move.
“I was with the group and then went ahead a little,” Reback said. “I think I wanted to show that I could ride the bike. But that’s a tough hill, and I went up too fast. They (Lindquist, Williams and Blatchford) passed me and I could not catch them.”
Reback rode by herself for the rest of the bike and fell further and further behind the leaders. By the second transition, her deficit was more than three minutes.
“I’m really happy for Susan, but I really feel for Laura,” said Lindquist, who failed to make the Olympic team in 2000 despite being a preseason favorite. “I’ve been there. I really have.”
Blatchford won the race in 2 hours, 6 minutes, 46 seconds. Lindquist was second in 2:07:01 and Williams third in 2:07:17. Reback went on to finish fifth in 2:12:26 and would go to Athens if one of the other women’s team members could not compete.
While the women’s race was determined early, the men’s race came down to the run.
Potts led Matt Reed (racing under the ITU flag pending approval of his changing affiliation to the United States) and Kemper out of the swim and the three formed the lead bike pack. Close behind them were, among others, all four U.S. Olympic hopefuls – Plata, Doug Friman (Tucson, Ariz.), Brian Fleischmann (Jacksonville, Fla.) and Michael Smedley (Buchanan, Mich.).
The chase pack eventually dropped Friman on Alabama Hill. Local favorite Joe Umphenour (Bellevue, Wash.) and New Zealand’s Kris Gemmell made a break off the front, but Smedley, Plata and Fleischmann stayed together in the chase pack.
Fleischmann took the lead out of transition, but Plata chased him down and went on to finish seventh overall and as the fourth American behind Kemper, Potts and Umphenour. It was good enough to make the team. Friman will be the alternate by virtue of his finishes at the first two qualifying races.
“Seeing the others just kind of fall away today was a surprise,” Plata said. “Fleischmann is tough. I couldn’t tell you exactly when I pulled away from him, but when I saw that I had, I knew my ticket to Athens had been punched.”
Kemper won the race in 1:55:45. Potts was second in 1:56:15 and Reed (Boulder, Colo.) third in 1:57:25. Umphenour was fourth in 2:00:48.
The race was part of the International Triathlon Union Continental Cup Series and also the USA Triathlon Race to Athens series. It will be broadcast on July 17 on the USA Network.
U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Triathlon, June 13, 2004; Bellingham, Wash. (1.5k swim; 40k bike; 10k run)
Other U.S. Finishers
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