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The Twisted Mechanics of Olympic Triathlon Selection

If you think qualifying for the Beijing Olympics in Triathlon is hard with all the 25,000 yard swim weeks, hammering up monstrous hills on a bike, and running thru endless track workouts, you have yet to understand the mechanics that give each country a specific number of slots for Olympic Triathlon. In some ways it is a mixed blessing for the G-8 Triathlon Countries to have such deep talent that even three slots seem like “not enough.” But as with anything related to the Olympics it is a political and complicated methodology that gives each country in the world the opportunity to take one, two, or at the maximum three triathletes per male and female event. I have tried to understand it and I am not there yet.

The funny thing is that once you understand the system that the International Olympic Committee (IOC), in conjunction with the International Triathlon Union (ITU), has created to award countries Triathlon slots, you then have to understand each country-specific method of awarding those slots. I had a post a few weeks ago regarding some of those controversies titled Olympic Omission No More

Below is a great Timothy Carlson post from insidetri.com that explains part of the complex formula to determine how many triathletes per country will line up in August. As a reminder, the Female Beijing Olympic Triathlon will take place on August 18th, while the Male Beijing Olympic Triathlon will follow on August 19th 2008.

What does this mean for the Untied States? Well this ups the ante for the 2008 HyVee ITU World Cup race in beautiful Des Moines, Iowa on June 22nd And of course, if there is any doubt in your mind, this will be one of the stops on the ” IWILLTRI Summer of Triathlon 2008 Tour”.

We are looking for sponsors, so write me if you’d be willing to sponsor tour t-shirts – I am not kidding ( hector “@” iwilltri.com).

All iwilltri.com Triathlon Beijing Olympics posts | The ITU Olympic site at triathlon.org/olympics | The Beijing Olympic Triathlon Venue

Russia temporarily overtakes U.S. men for third Olympic slot
By Timothy Carlson – IT Senior Correspondent
Posted May. 4, 2008

In a subplot that contains even more drama for the US men, Russia’s Dimitry Polyansky finished seventh and temporarily knocked the United States out of an expected third Olympic slot [At Richard Bay ITU World Cup May 4th, 2008].

According to ITU rules, eight nations will earn the maximum number of three Olympic slots. Before Richards Bay, the U.S. men stood eighth – the final nation receiving three Olympic slots. Russia stood ninth with two Olympic men’s slots.

According to the International Triathlon Union’s complicated national Olympic qualification points system, the dividing line between nations is the position of their third athlete in the rankings. With his 7th place finish at Richards Bay, third-ranking Russian Polyansky advanced his Olympic qualification point total by 188 points. This moved him ahead of the third-ranking U.S. man Hunter Kemper by 135 points — 2493 to 2358.

While Polyanksy is free to pursue up to 400 points for winning next week’s European Continental Cup Championship, he is operating under a handicap in the race to earn Russian men three Olympic slots. Before Richards Bay, Polyanksy had already raced 12 times, while only an athlete’s best 9 performances from 2007 through June 8, 2008 will count.

While Polyanksy scored 313 points for his seventh place finish, he had to throw out his former 9th best score of 125 points, leaving him with a net plus of 188 points.

With World Cup races offering a maximum of 500 points and the World Championship offering double the normal points and a maximum of 1000 points for the win, the US men seem to have the long term advantage.

With his second place finish at Richards Bay, Matt Reed earned 463 Olympic qualification points, moving him from 1833 to 2296 points, within 197 points of Polyansky and within 62 points of Kemper.

While Polyanksy can theoretically add up to 270 net points and give Russia a 400-point lead over the US with a top finish at the European Championships, American athletes have a great chance of having the last word.

Both Kemper and Reed are scheduled to race at the BG Triathlon World Cup in Madrid later this month and at the ITU World Championship in Vancouver on June 8. Neither will be under Polyanksy’s burden of having to throw out races and can freely rack up national Olympic qualification points.

Still, the current situation is eerily similar to the US men’s Olympic qualification plight in 2000. Then, Kemper had to put his team on his shoulders and chase Olympic qualification points all over the world. The effort succeeded, but compromised Kemper’s fitness and he finished a disappointing 17th at Sydney.

With lots of factors in their favor, the U.S. men can still fall short if Reed and Kemper encounter bad luck at Madrid and Vancouver and Polyansky continues to plug away and accumulate points.

In the very unlikely scenario that worst comes to worst and the US men end up with only two Olympic slots after Vancouver, the US Olympic qualifying rules come back into play with the ultimate, last-minute wrench thrown into the works.

After a careful re-reading of these rules, here is the shocker: If the US ends up with only two Olympic slots, then Matt Reed no longer has an automatic Olympic qualifying slot for his win at Tuscaloosa. In that earth-shattering case, the Hy-Vee Triathlon, rather than being made irrelevant, will become more important than ever.

If just two slots total are at stake, all the American men’s points will be taken into consideration for the second and final American men’s Olympic slot. At that point, the only American man whose spot would be guaranteed would be Jarrod Shoemaker for his win at Beijing. The rest of the American men would go into Hy-Vee still looking to be fitted for that precious Olympic ring — in this order:

Hunter Kemper: 2nd (Beijing) and 3rd (Tuscaloosa) = 5 points
Andy Potts: 3rd (Beijing) and 2nd (Tuscaloosa) = 5 points
Matt Reed: 1st (Tuscaloosa) and 5th (Beijing) = 6 points
Doug Friman: 4th (Beijing) and must be first American at Hy-Vee (1 point) to have a chance
Brian Fleischmann: 4th (Tuscaloosa) and must be first American at Hy-Vee (1 point) to have a chance.

There are other parameters of this crazy points maze, but this is the basic outline of a very messy situation that is nirvana for stats nerds.

Full insidetri.com article

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May 6, 2008 at 4:18 pm
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