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Get To Know USA’s Olympic Triathlon Team

Meet the six talented Rio-bound athletes who will represent the U.S. next week.

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Meet the six talented Rio-bound athletes who will represent the U.S. next week. 

Gwen Jorgensen

Quick stats
Age: 30
Hometown: St. Paul, Minn.
Coach: Jamie Turner
Pro debut: 2010

Two-sentence triathlon backstory: Former college swimmer and runner at University of Wisconsin and accountant tapped by the USAT Collegiate Recruitment Program. World Triathlon Series winning streak of 12 races recently broken by Helen Jenkins.

Triathlon love: I view everything I do as an investment, not a sacrifice. I go into every race wanting to do well because I’ve been working hard and I have a lot of people invested in me. I like racing. I’m excited to race. I’m excited to test myself. I’m really proud of what I’ve done so far, but I just keep looking forward.

Spirit animal: A badger, go Wisconsin!

Coveted super power: Speed-reading

Thoughts on Rio: Being a part of the Olympics is a goal of mine. I’ve aspired to win gold in Rio since the London Olympics in 2012 [Jorgensen suffered a flat tire and finished 38th]. I have invested the past four years for one race, one moment on August 20. I look forward to proudly representing Team USA and to cheering on my USA teammates. Outside of the Olympics, I am looking forward to eating some of Rio’s local foods and enjoying a coconut on Copacabana Beach. I only learned triathlon was an Olympic Sport in 2010 so I didn’t have the full four-year cycle to prepare for London like I’ve had for Rio.

Pre-race pump up music: Anything from Darius Rucker

What does representing USA (x2!) mean to you? The Olympics bring out the best in everyone. They bring the world together and allow athletes to perform at the highest level. Years of investment go into one race and the world comes together to watch and see how the races pan out. As an athlete representing the USA, I am proud and honored to wear red, white and blue and feel fortunate to be a part of such an amazing country.

#Gwensanity By The Numbers

32:15 10K course record time at Yokohama WTS race in May (that’s a 5:12-per-mile pace!)

12 Consecutive wins on the ITU World Triathlon Series circuit, with streak beginning in May 2014 and ending with loss to Britain’s Helen Jenkins at WTS Gold Coast in April

$10,000 Amount of the Gwen Jorgensen Scholarship, awarded annually since 2014 to a draft-legal or paralympic triathlete of promise

<2 Years after completing her first competitive triathlon, she qualified for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team*

38th Finish place in London Olympics after suffering a flat tire

2013 Year she became the first American woman to win a WTS race (at the Omegawave World Triathlon Series San Diego)

RELATED: Inside Gwen Jorgensen’s Gear Bag

Katie Zaferes

Quick stats
Age: 27

Hometown: Hampstead, Md.

Coach: Joel Filliol

Pro debut: 2013

Two-sentence triathlon backstory: The first triathlon I ever did was in 2007 with my dad on Father’s Day. However I didn’t really get into triathlon until the USA Triathlon Collegiate Recruitment Program recruited me.

Triathlon love: I was given an opportunity that most people only dream about when I had the chance to train at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., as a developmental triathlete after being recruited post running at Syracuse University. From there, I just fell in love with the sport and the triathlon community. Having three sports (plus two transitions) in one event appealed to me in that there will always be a way to get better and I will never get bored.

Spirit animal: A dolphin—I took an online quiz that told me!

Coveted superpower: To be able to transport myself wherever I wanted to go just by thinking…and anything I was holding/touching would come with me—meaning no bike fees and shorter travel times.

Thoughts on Rio: I’m thankful, stoked, proud, curious, relieved and happily overwhelmed.

How would your best friends describe you? Fun-loving, caring, hardworking, driven

Pre-race pump up music: A lot of TechN9ne and “Let’s Go” by Trick Daddy

What does representing the U.S. mean to you? It’s awesome to be able to represent USA at the highest level, and I am so honored to go with such a strong USA Triathlon team. It’s been an incredible journey and has involved so many awesome people from different aspects of my life. It’s really cool to get to do something that I really wouldn’t have thought possible in this short amount of time with the sport!

RELATED: Katie Zaferes Earns First Career WTS Gold in Hamburg

Joe Maloy

Quick stats
Age: 30

Hometown: Wildwood Crest, N.J.

Coach: Paulo Sousa

Pro debut: 2010

Two-sentence triathlon backstory: I started racing triathlon in 2008, and then decided the sport needed me in 2010. As my friends like to say, “Joe’s late to everything but a finish line.”

Triathlon love: Triathlon really hooked me because of the way it combines competing with others and racing oneself. The combination of sports and longer duration of the race make for loads of mental games to play as you compete.

Spirit animal: A bottlenose dolphin. They’re social and love to play.

Coveted superpower: To always know where I put my keys, wallet and cell phone.

Thoughts on Rio: Pride and excitement. Being an athlete is all about responding to situations.  Sometimes you need to “think,” and sometimes you need to “do.” Never do either one too many times in a row.

How would your best friends describe you?  They’d say, “You’re going to need so sit down and let me get you a drink, this is going to take a while.”

Pre-race pump up music: “What’s My Name” by DMX

What does representing the U.S. mean to you? It’s about being on a team—representing something bigger than yourself. We can all be a part of that.

RELATED: Single And Rio Bound

Ben Kanute

Quick stats
Age: 23

Hometown: Geneva, Ill.

Coach: Ryan Bolton and Adam Zucco

Pro debut: 2012

Two-sentence triathlon backstory: My dad started doing triathlon when I was young, so I almost grew up in a transition area. I did a kid’s triathlon in the town I grew up in when I was about eight, and I joined a kid’s triathlon team soon after—I have been in the sport ever since!

Triathlon love: I started the sport because I wanted to be like my dad, and I stuck around because I loved to race. I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a professional triathlete—it was a lot like other kids who want to be an NFL player or some other professional athlete. I love to compete, and to do it as a job is a dream. Not every race can be your best, but you can give your best effort every time, and make the most of the cards you are dealt. As long as I am able to give it my best, I can be proud of my race.

Spirit animal: An eagle. It’s a symbol of our country, and they are proud animals that get to go fast while flying.

Coveted super power: To be able to eat anything I want and not have any negative side effects. Not the most glamorous super power, but you could become a legend. Think “Man vs. Food.” An eating tour of the world with various challenges and classic dishes!

Thoughts on Rio: The Olympics have been a dream for me for so long, that it is almost hard to believe that I get to compete. I grew up on a team that encouraged us to dream big. I used to pretend I was racing as a pro in practice, and I set the Olympics as one of my reach goals years ago. I think the satisfaction of reaching a goal that you have worked so hard for is something that you have to experience to really understand.

How would your best friends describe you? Some tend to think that I am a little nuts to swim, bike, and run as much as I do, but they understand why I do it and what drives me to spend all those hours training. They must like me at least a little bit because they still hang around despite when I’m a mess, hangry, or just really need a coffee.

Pre-race pump up music: Some of the artists/bands on my playlist are: The Wonder Years, Nelly, Drake, Zendaya, Fetty Wap and The Chainsmokers.

What does representing the U.S. mean to you? It is one of the greatest honors in my life. I love wearing the Stars and Stripes all over the world, and to do it on the biggest stage is incredible. I am extremely proud to represent my country in Rio, and I will do my best to make everyone at home proud.

RELATED: United States Wins Mixed Relay World Championships

Sarah True

Quick stats
Age: 34

Hometown: Hanover, N.H.

Coach: Corey Hart

Pro debut: 2005

Two-sentence triathlon backstory: As a kid, I remember watching Kona on TV and thinking that the sport combined two sports I loved—swimming and running—and I wanted to try it when I got older. It took a few years, but I finally took the plunge and gradually became focused on the sport.

Triathlon love: I can’t imagine my life without triathlon; while I’m fortunate enough to race professionally, the sport has been woven into the fabric of the person I am. When I wake up in the morning, I’m still bouncy and excited about the challenge of balancing three sports. Triathlon has transformed my life and how I see myself; the fact that I can do it full time and at the highest level is just a bonus.

Spirit animal: The moose—they’re awkward loners, but tough and surprisingly speedy. I also suspect that they would have the best sense of humor of all the ungulates.

Coveted superpower: Dimensional travel

Thoughts on Rio: For the past four years, I’ve been motivated by my race in London. Since surprising myself with a fourth place finish in 2012, I wanted to show up in Rio with the belief that I am capable of a podium performance. I’ve also been deeply motivated by a desire to share the Olympic experience with my husband, [Olympic distance runner] Ben. The past few years as athletes in two different sports has been an exhausting challenge; going to the Olympics together would give us the ability to celebrate our sacrifices and dedication to our sports and to one another.

How would your best friends describe you? Goofy, disorganized, loyal and a bit “special.”

Pre-race pump up music: The Pixies or 2 Chainz

What does representing the USA (x2!) mean to you? Going to the Olympics, being part of Team USA and representing my sport is an indescribable honor. I’m a small-town girl who never dreamed I’d have Olympic aspirations; hopefully I can serve as an example for hard work, persistence and positivity for anyone watching our event in August.

RELATED: Considering Cyclocross? Take Sarah True’s Advice

Greg Billington

Quick stats
Age: 27

Hometown: Spokane, Wash.

Coach: Paulo Sousa

Pro debut: 2011

Two-sentence triathlon backstory: I was 10. I was told there would be ice cream.

Triathlon love: I became enthralled with triathlon after realizing that this is the only sport where it’s universally accepted that proper pacing is for pansies. A draft-legal triathlon is two hours of unsustainable sprints where throwing bows is perfectly acceptable for at least the first third. When given the option of doing that for a living, I guess I just couldn’t refuse.

Spirit animal: According to Facebook surveys, it’s either a donkey, a beluga whale, or Katniss Everdeen. I think it depends on how many training sessions I’ve done that day.

Coveted superpower: Ability to immediately respond with pithy wit. It would make my interviews so much… betterer.

Thoughts on Rio: Take intense excitement, mix in abject terror and season with satisfaction; bake that at huge responsibility and you’ve got yourself Greg Billington’s Rio Pie.

How would your best friends describe you? I think most of them would immediately launch into an impromptu epic ballad. As part of my best friend application, I usually request a personalized Petrarchan Sonnet, iambic pentameter only. I occasionally accept an Haiku, but absolutely no limericks. If the words ‘handsomest’ or ‘humblest’ aren’t in there, I can tell the applicant has an uphill battle ahead.

Pre-race pump up music: AC/DC “Back in Black” or a loop of Mel Gibson yelling “Freedom!” in Braveheart.

What does representing the USA mean to you? Nothing compares to that heightened sense of responsibility, the risk and reward as lining up with USA emblazoned on my uniform, ready to succeed or fail at what I’ve dedicated the last decade of my life to perfecting.

RELATED: A Triathlete’s Guide To Following The Rio Olympics

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