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photo: Competitive Image
USA Triathlon Honors Olympians to Close Games Experience
LONDON — USA Triathlon honored its 2012 U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team on Tuesday night with a dinner to reflect on the journey each athlete took to the starting line on sport’s biggest stage.
The evening was highlighted by remarks from all five Olympians — Laura Bennett, Sarah Groff, Manuel Huerta, Gwen Jorgensen and Hunter Kemper. The event was a celebration of the athletes’ accomplishments, but it also gave them an opportunity to thank the many people that helped them along the way to London.
“I am so happy that so many of you were able to come here and watch us in our dream race. For us, this is not a two-hour race, it’s not two months of training. For me, it’s been my whole life getting ready for this,” Huerta said.
“It wouldn’t have been possible without my family and friends who are here, as well as USA Triathlon and the USOC. I think we have the best support crew out there, and I’m very thankful to be part of this great team.”
The team captains and veterans of multiple Olympic Games, Bennett and Kemper offered heartfelt words of encouragement to each of their first-time Olympian teammates, and each athlete recognized their friends, families, coaches and supporters who made the effort to join them in London.
Kemper closed the athlete speeches and was very reflective on a career that has led him to a quartet of Olympic Games appearances. He worked diligently to qualify for the 2012 Games after suffering a broken elbow in October 2011.
“This journey’s been very, very difficult for me. I’m happy to be here and we’ll see what the next couple of years have to offer to me in regards to Rio and whatnot,” said Kemper, who had nearly 20 supporters in attendance, including his 5-year-old son, Davis. “For me, I just want to enjoy this time, enjoy this time with my family. It’s been very special.”
USA Triathlon CEO Rob Urbach and USA Triathlon Board of Directors President Bob Wendling also addressed the crowd and recognized many of the triathlon’s biggest supporters in attendance, including Scott Schnitzspahn and Steve Whisnant of the U.S. Olympic Committee, International Triathlon Union (ITU) Executive Board Melissa Merson and ITU official Joyce Donaldson, who was one of 42 technical officials selected to work the triathlon events in London.
“What we saw over the past few days was the result of a lot of hard work,” Urbach said.
Tuesday’s dinner served as a celebration of the hard work of many over the past Olympic quad, but it’s not too early to start looking ahead to the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, which will also feature the debut of paratriathlon in the Paralympic Games.
“I’m really proud to say that all five of our Olympians here today qualified by performing on race day, so a huge kudos to each of the five of you for raising the bar and helping us advance that culture,” said USA Triathlon High Performance General Manager Andy Schmitz. “But we definitely have a ways to go because we want to make sure we leave Rio with hardware in hand.”
Urbach agreed, “We have a great family. We think that our program is very well positioned. It will be very, very soon when hopefully we are all together in Rio having more wins to share.”