Haskins, Kemper Round out Nominations to 2008 U.S. Olympic Team

by Jason Mucher

Sarah Haskins and Hunter Kemper turned in stellar performances at the ITU Hy-Vee World Cup in Des Moines, Iowa, on Sunday to earn the final spots for nomination to the 2008 U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team.

It will be Haskins' first Olympic Team; for Kemper, it will be his third.

The 27-year-old Haskins (Colorado Springs, Colo. / St. Louis, Mo.), who finished sixth overall in the event, earned the spot when Sarah Groff (Boulder, Colo. / Cooperstown, N.Y.) failed to finish as the top American.

"My main goal was to win that spot. It's amazing [going to the Olympics]. It's been my dream since I was a little girl, just to be able to go there and have the opportunity to win a medal. It will be fantastic," said Haskins, who had close to 50 friends and relatives on hand from St. Louis and Minnesota to cheer her on. "The biggest challenge for me was trying to get away on the bike, but it was a rolling course and I couldn't quite do that. But I was able to get out on the run first and it all came together in the end."

Fellow American Laura Bennett (Boulder, Colo. / N. Palm Beach, Fla.) was the top American in Des Moines with a fourth place finish. Bennett earned the first Olympic Team spot last September at the Beijing World Cup. Haskins and Bennett will be joined on the team by Julie Swail Ertel (Irvine, Calif.), who claimed her spot by winning the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in April. She finished as the third American (seventh overall) in Des Moines. The replacement/alternate spot went to Becky Lavelle (Los Gatos, Calif. / Minnetonka, Minn.) thanks to her fourth place American finish (eighth overall) on Sunday.

Groff finished as the fifth American (ninth overall).

The full race story can be seen at the ITU website.

For the 32-year-old Kemper (Colorado Springs, Colo. / Longwood, Fla.), clinching the Olympic spot was an emotional culmination of a frustrating 18 months. After suffering a lower back/hip injury that limited his performances in 2007, he has been battling a hernia for most of this season.

"I wish I could describe what the road has been like the past year and a half. I've been dealing with a lot of injuries. It's been very difficult. But it all came together today. It's tremendous. I'm a very blessed boy and I'm doing what God has made me to do. To represent the U.S.A., it doesn't get any better than that. I'm loving it," said Kemper, who crossed the finish line draped in an American flag with tears flowing down his face. "There was a lot more on my plate today than trying to get on the podium. I wanted to get back to the Olympic Team. It's tough when you have two races in one. It's hard to really let loose. You want to take risks, but you don't want to fall back."

Kemper not only did what he had to do to earn the final Olympic Team spot – finish ahead of Andy Potts – he turned in a stellar performance with a spectacular sixth place finish. Potts, who finished almost 30 seconds behind Kemper, was eighth overall.

Joining Kemper on the U.S. men's Olympic Team will be Jarrod Shoemaker (Sudbury, Mass.), who qualified last September at the Beijing World Cup, and Matt Reed (Boulder, Colo.), who won the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in April. Potts (Colorado Springs, Colo. / Princeton, N.J.) will serve as the team replacement/alternate.

Read the full race story at the ITU website.