Lifelong Swimmer Supports Olympic, Paralympic Hopefuls Through USAT Foundation

by USA Triathlon Foundation

Headshot of Justin Kaplan
Justin Kaplan

A lifelong swimmer’s generosity will support U.S. Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls as they pursue triathlon at the highest level.

Justin Kaplan grew up swimming and eventually progressed to racing distance free at the collegiate level. Although he didn’t make it to the Olympic level, he says he has a soft spot in his heart for those who do.  

“I know how much they train and how hard it is to support yourself between part-time jobs, training and competing at an elite level,” Justin said. “It’s really inspiring to me.”

While burnout led him to take a break from competitive swimming, Justin continued to swim occasionally and run after graduation. He went on to race his first triathlon, an Olympic distance, with friends 15 years ago.

The Brooklyn, N.Y., resident been hooked on the sport ever since, and continues to race today, primarily half-iron distance. This October, he’ll be competing in IRONMAN 70.3 Memphis. The late-season race should be a reprieve from the historically hot and humid New York City Triathlon that’s been his A race in the past.

Justin Kaplan riding a bike in foggy weather.
(Photo by Justin Kaplan)

With triathlon having treated him well over the years, Justin was looking for a way to give back. A board member helped him connect him to the USA Triathlon Foundation, where he learned about Project X, which supports aspiring Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

“It resonated with me, because growing up as a swimmer, the pinnacle of swimming is the Olympics,” Justin said.  

Unlike Paralympic and Olympic athletes in many other countries, those in the United States don’t receive government funding. Instead, they rely on donors, sponsors and, in some cases, part-time or full-time work. Paralympic triathletes have additional costs for custom bikes and sports prosthetics, which wear out just like shoes and aren’t usually covered by insurance.

The USA Triathlon Foundation helps bridge the gap for aspiring Olympic and Paralympic triathletes by providing funding for gear, coaching, racing-related travel and more.

Having trained and raced since age 6, Justin understands just how advantageous it is to be involved in a sport.
“It’s been beneficial to be able to have the discipline and variety of sport that triathlon provides,” he said. “It’s made life more enjoyable.”

The USA Triathlon Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and the charitable arm of USA Triathlon. With its mission to transform lives through sport by providing opportunities to swim, bike and run, the Foundation serves to generate a greater impact on the multisport community through charitable giveback and grants that advance the Foundation’s three pillars: (1) Encourage youth participation; (2) Inspire adaptive athletes; and (3) Ignite Olympic/Paralympic dreams. Since the Foundation was established in 2014, it has provided millions  of dollars in grants to organizations and individuals in pursuit of its mission and pillars to create a healthier United States through triathlon.