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Triathlon Olympic Omission no more – Emma Snowsill and Beijing

“Despite being the women’s triathlon 2003 world and World Cup champion, Australia’s Emma Snowsill was curiously left off the 2004 Olympic roster by Triathlon Australia. She placed third and fourth at Australia’s two Olympic selection trials, which apparently were poor enough finishes for the country’s officials to go with 20-year-old Maxine Seear instead. While veteran Loretta Harrop of Australia won Olympic silver, Seear was one of six females who did not finish the Athens race. Refusing to let the omission derail her, Snowsill went on to win every other competition in which she participated in 2004, then her second and third world titles in 2005 and ’06. ”

NBC Sports has posted a short, undated, Emma Snowsill biography which mentions her getting snubbed for a 2004 Olympic slot (a misstep that the Aussies I am sure regret, as well having left Craig Walton off). As with most Olympic sports, politics run deep and triathlon is not immune. On one side you have the “you must place in X spot at X race in X place or higher” and on the other you have the “whole record/breadth of experience should matter most.” Here in the USA what you might have is a situation where let’s say Hunter Kemper or Andy Potts do not qualify in two weeks or at Des Moines, and instead some complete dark horse takes a slot ahead of them (Potts’ by the way just won Oceanside/Ironman California 70.3 versus a stacked field). What should USAT do? Ignore two of the most talented, race-proven athletes – or go with the results as they stand. Well here in the USA it’s a simple decision = “you must place in X spot at X race.” Case closed.

For whatever reason New Zealand and Australia have left several high profile triathletes off Olympic rosters in the past (here is an ABC story on old controversies ). Chris “Macca” McCormack, Michellie Jones, Emma Snowsill, Craig Walton, Greg Bennett, etc. I am not here to judge – frankly I have never even visited those two countries and I’m sure it’s hard to sit on a committee and decide.

Countries though have to wrestle with what to do when there is a remaining slot that is not earned because their triathletes did not come within the top 10 at a qualifying race for example. Right now Terenzo Bozzone and Shane Reed (New Zealand Herald story here ) are sitting at home probably checking their email every other hour (like so many of my mba-applicant friends with Round 2s around the corner) to see if they should block off August for Beijing or not. In that story Shane actually says : “”I’m pretty much ready to retire if I don’t make the team. I’ll race New Plymouth next week and that’s it for World Cups anyway.”

In a similar dillemma, with a qualitative decision rather than a quantitative (what I call “place in X spot at X race in X place or higher”), is Australia.

The Australian committee instituted an “early nomination” criteria that included : Courtney Atkinson, Brad Kahlefeldt, and Emma Snowsill – story is over at the Official Australian 2008 Olympics site.
This story included the following: “”In the end, TA’s Selectors considered that the three athletes named today under the Early Nomination clause of the Nomination Criteria really chose themselves. Emma has clearly been one of the best, if not the best, triathlete in the World for the last three years. Courtney and Brad are the only Australian triathletes to have won ITU World Cup Races in 2006 and 2007, in addition they have multiple podium finishes between them. In the opinion of Selectors, all three athletes have shown the physical, emotional and psychological potential to be medalists in Beijing.,” said Chairman of Selectors Peter Fitzgerald.”

Now to be clear I am not criticizing the way the Aussies pick their athletes or those chosen (all three are the cream of the crop and have proven podims) – I’m just highliting the different processes that go into selecting what triathletes show up in Beijing.

So the politics will continue and the Triathlon road to Beijing starts narrowing – but at least we can all sit back and know that this go around Emma Snowsill won’t be left out of going head to head on Monday August 18th versus Vanessa Fernandes and Laura Bennett (1st USA female selected back in Fall of ’07)) in Beijing. My top three, albeit un-original and consensus, picks have all earned their Olympic spot and will be ready to swim, bike, and run to medal history in the third running of the Olympic triathlon.

As always, head on over to www.iwilltri.com/pro-triathletesfor the world’s longest list of professional triathletes.

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April 2, 2008 at 8:48 am
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