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Sarah Groff, who qualified for the Olympics this past weekend by placing seventh at the ITU’s Dextro Energy World Championship Series in London, took part in the U.S. Olympic Committee’s 12 for ’12 Media Teleconference Series today. She, along with two-time Olympic track and field silver medalist and three-time world champion Allyson Felix, answered several questions from several media outlets. Here is a sampling of some of the questions that Groff answered.
How did your sacral fracture occur last year? How did it affect your training, and would you have qualified for London if it didn’t happen?
I initially fractured my sacrum in March, last year, when I was commuting to a run workout and had a little bit of a crash. It shouldn’t have been a big deal, but I just landed the wrong way. Crashing is part of the sport. You normally expect to do it in a race or a higher-pressure situation, but mine happened in a commute. I basically trained and raced through the sacral fracture, thinking it would heal. By the end of November, I actually had refracted it. I missed a lot of early season training in January and February. To answer the second part of your questions, months ago my brother, who has watched me plug away at the sport for a while, he told me the injury would make me a better athlete. Coming back I knew I didn’t have much margin for error. I had to do everything right—all the rehab right. I had to learn how to run again from scratch. Coming back, my muscle pattern was completely messed up. I had to learn how to run in a balanced way, and I’m now running better than ever before. I had an increased focus on improving my core strength and improving the symmetry of my run form. It took a lot of patience and a lot of hard work, and I think that focus on the minutia is paying off and showing in my improved results this year.
Do you think that the women may be more likely to bike more aggressively next year at the Olympics than they did this year at the test event, especially since Alistair Brownlee demonstrated that a break is possible on that course?
Yeah, definitely. I think seeing Alistair and some of the other boys being more aggressive, especially if we get the same conditions as they did. (Editor’s note: It was pouring rain during the men’s race.) People are a bit more hesitant and if you’re committed to a breakaway, it can definitely stick. My assessment of the women’s race this past weekend with the bike was that so many countries there had qualification spots up for grabs. Whether it was top eight, top nine, top 10 or top 12, for most countries you didn’t have to be a podium finisher. I think people raced a bit more conservatively. We know that when there are medals up for grabs, people will take a few more risks and hopefully more risks will be taken. I was prepared for a break. I would have liked for there to be a break and for people to take more initiative. Maybe I’ll train so I can personally take that initiative. There are quite a few other people thinking the same way. There’s opportunity, especially if the conditions are bad. It’s a less than ideal course for that [breakaways], but as Alistair Brownlee showed, it definitely can be done.
With all the craziness going on with riots in London, with athletes gearing up for a Games there, do you ever look at that? Does that concern you?
When I was there, there were some riots, but we felt as though—we didn’t feel threatened at all. I definitely have faith that the Olympic organizers would do everything possible to ensure our safety. Let’s just hope that everything gets resolved as soon as possible.
What is a regular day of training like for you? How will training for the Olympics be different?
When you have three sports, there really is not a typical day of training. We tend to wake up pretty early and do a swim session first thing in the morning, about 5,000 meters. Then midday we’ll do a bike workout and in the afternoon we’ll do a run. It’s highly variable. We could do two hours of training a day or we could do six. But we train every day and really try to find the balance between the different disciplines. In preparation for the Olympics we’ll probably train the same way. It’s the same group of athletes I race in the WCS. We know their strengths and weaknesses, and we may cater to their strengths and weaknesses more specifically [now] than on a day-to-day basis. I come from a more swim background, and we may put little emphasis away from the swim and focus a bit more on the run. Based on this course, it’s going to come down to a run race, possibly a bike-run race, if people make some attempts on the bike. Really, we’re just going to keep moving forward and addressing some of the weaknesses I have while trying to keep my strengths intact.
How did you celebrate qualifying?
I celebrated with my training squad and my coach and my boyfriend, and I actually lost a completely unrelated bet a couple of months ago and was forced to go out to dinner in a Wonder Woman costume. That wasn’t part of the initial planning. But I honored my bet, and there are some good photographs to prove it.
What made you decide to become a triathlete?
I decided to become a triathlete after being a swimmer and runner for a number of years, and I swam in college, although it was a really hard decision to choose between doing running or swimming, and when I graduated I felt I had unfulfilled athletic potential. I jumped into a few amateur triathlons throughout college and was pretty good at them and decided I was going to take the risk and see how far I could take the sport upon graduation of college.
What would it mean to you to medal in London?
I think that, you know, representing the U.S. alone at the Olympics is going to be pretty amazing, and I am still trying to wrap my mind around that. A medal is a totally different dream. At one point I was in third at the test event this past weekend, and the thought of trying to chase a medal next year definitely—I’m going to do everything I can to be in that position next year.
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– 2012 London Olympic Medal Contenders: The Women
– Sarah Groff Reflects On Her ITU WCS Podium Finish
– Sarah Groff Named USA TODAY’s Olympic Athlete Of The Week