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London WCS Provides Look Ahead to 2012 Games

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LONDON - While this weekend’s races in Hyde Park will likely go a long way in determining the United States’ triathlon roster for the 2012 London Olympic Games, the event also provides USA Triathlon’s athletes and support staff with an opportunity to perform a logistical dry run for the Games.

Nearly all the athletes competing this weekend joined USA Triathlon staff for a pre-race camp in Guildford, a suburban area of London located 45 minutes from the bustling city.

Prepping for this weekend’s events was paramount, but last week also has served as a look ahead to the lead up to next year’s Olympic Games. Following the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Olympic Games, there will be nine days until the women’s triathlon and 12 until the men’s event. This window of time will give the U.S. athletes a chance to attend the ceremonies and then return to familiar turf in Guildford for a final tune-up.

“We can come in, go to the opening ceremonies, go through processing and then head out to where the rest of our support staff will have set up camp,” said USA Triathlon High Performance Senior Manager Andy Schmitz. “The athletes roll in and they’re ready to go for a week of final prep before the races.”  

In Guildford, the U.S. athletes had access to the state-of-the art Surrey Sports Park, which features a 50-meter pool, top-of-the-line equipment and access to running trails and multiple cycling routes.

“This was the year to get our ducks all in a row to make sure the athletes feel comfortable in the environment with the training routes for runs and bikes,” said Schmitz.

The Guildford facility and its proximity to London create a more ideal training situation for the Americans than relocating to South Korea following the Beijing opening ceremonies in 2008.

“We love it down there. It’s pretty chill, it’s quiet – beautiful farmland,” said 2008 Olympian Jarrod Shoemaker, who trained in the area with his wife Alicia Kaye prior to last year’s London World Championship Series event and again this year. “The pool is amazing and it’s the perfect distance from London. It’s pretty easy to get back in the city.”

Three-time Olympian Hunter Kemper, who will race in London for the first time this year after dealing with injuries for much of 2009 and 2010, agrees with his Beijing teammate. “The whole team atmosphere was good … It was a fun training base for the week leading up to this race, and it was good to get out of the city.”

Veterans like Kemper and Shoemaker can speak for all the athletes here in London this week that getting a sneak peak at the Olympic course for the first time will be key come next year.

“There is nothing like being on the course doing the same thing that you will be doing [at the Olympics.] I think all of us are confident in our fitness, but it’s those x-factors that actually make it on race day,” said Shoemaker. “… It’s nice to feel comfortable in a setting, and once you get to the Games you don’t have to worry about anything.”

“Being out here a year ahead of time and seeing the course, going over the course and seeing exactly what the course will be like for 2012, is a big thing,” added Kemper, who was seventh and placed as the top American in Beijing.

He hopes to improve on that showing and earn the first-ever Olympic medal for a U.S. men’s triathlete in a year’s time. Kemper and eight other Americans will take the first step toward the Olympic podium this weekend where a top-nine finish can earn up to two men and two women a berth in the 2012 Games. “Obviously the main objective for all us is to get a spot on the team here a year out … I’m looking forward to it.”

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