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Next summer, thousands of the world’s fittest triathletes will descend upon Edmonton, Canada for the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final. This five-day event, running from August 20 to 23, 2020, encompasses world championship races for elites, paratriathletes, and age-groupers in Olympic- and sprint-distance triathlon. Held in Edmonton’s Hawrelak Park, the largest urban park in North America, the venue showcases the stunning beauty of Western Canada right in the heart of a bustling city. Athletes will swim in the pristine waters of Lake Hawrelak, cycle through downtown Edmonton, and complete a run through the park in the shadows of soaring pine trees before finishing in a stadium bowl set up exclusively for the event.
“This isn’t your typical location for a triathlon,” says Edmonton Triathlon general manager Stephen Bourdeau. “We offer a unique setting while keeping a hometown feel. The whole city gets behind the event, and we take great pride in showcasing everything that Edmonton has to offer.”
Any U.S. triathlete who is at least 17 years old has a chance to qualify for to compete for Team USA in Edmonton. But there are specific steps you must take in order to do so. Here’s the how-to.
1. Earn a National Championships Berth
Every USAT sanctioned age-group triathlon is a potential qualifier for the Olympic-Distance Age Group Nationals race, held in Cleveland on August 10 and 11, 2019. There are several paths to qualify (which USAT lays out here), but the most straightforward way is to place in the top 15 percent of finishers in your age group at a USAT sanctioned race. (Even though you’re gunning for an Olympic-distance qualification, you can earn a spot by competing in any distance of triathlon as well as in off-road races). So, if you race and place fourth out of 25 competitors in your age-group, you’re in. Placed fifth? You have not qualified.
2. Register for Age Group Nationals
Once you’re in, you should receive a congratulatory email from USAT within 15 days of your race (this allows time for race directors to submit results and for USAT to process them). The email will include a registration link unique to you, which will be valid until registration closes eight days before the race or when the event sells out, whichever comes first.
3. Head to Cleveland
Cleveland returns as the host of the 2019 USAT Age Group National Championships, once again ready to welcome thousands of athletes to scenic Edgewater Park on the banks of Lake Erie. The two-day event features the Olympic distance race on Saturday, August 10 and the Sprint National Championship the following day. For each race, waves are based on your specific age-group, so you will be able to go head-to-head with those of whom you’re battling for a berth.
Note: While the Sprint Distance race is a world qualifier, it is open to anyone. There is no qualification required to participate at the race in Cleveland, and you can opt to double up and race in both events. (Click here to read more about qualifying for worlds in the sprint distance race, as the procedure is different than that of the Olympic distance.)
4. Race Great
Here’s the tricky part: Your spot on Team USA completely rests on your results at Age Group Nationalss—plus a few logistics. The basic rule for the Olympic distance race is that anyone who finishes in the top 18 in each age-group at Nationals will qualify for Team USA. But, you have to first factor in the age-up rule. That is, taking into consideration anyone in your age-group (or the age-group prior to yours) who may be aging up. Athletes who are aging-up are removed from their current age-group and their time is then compared to those athletes in the older age-group.
So, for example, I raced in the 35-39 age-group last summer and placed 15th. But because I will compete in the 40-44 age-group in 2019, my result was removed from my current age-group and compared to the women in the 40-44 age-group. Fortunately, my finish time put me in 15th for that group as well, and my Team USA slot was locked in. Even if you’re not the one aging up, this process may work in your favor (because someone who finished in front of you is taken out of your age-group, moving you up in the rankings) or against you (my finish, for example, bumped someone in the 40-44 age-group out of the top 18).
Bottom line? If you’re on the bubble, you have to wait until USAT posts the age-up results at the awards ceremony to see if your spot is sealed.
5. Claim Your Spot…
Think you have a chance of qualifying? Plan to be at the awards ceremony the evening following the race. This is a festive affair complete with a video recapping the day’s action, recognition of the fastest individuals of the day (including fun categories, like fastest transitions and speediest grandmaster, AKA those 60-plus), as well as the podium ceremonies for each age-group. The top 10 in each age-group go up on the big stage to collect their bling. Then, the top 18 finishers from each age-group are ushered to a room where they claim their spot with a quick swipe on an iPad. Per USAT, you must accept your slot at the awards ceremony; otherwise, you will forfeit your entry.
6. …Or Wait for the Roll Down
Here’s some good news if you don’t make the top 18 cut-off: Likely, not everyone will claim their spot in your age-group. This opens up room on the roster, as USAT rolls down to 25th place. If you earn a roll-down spot, you will be notified by USAT following Age Group Nationals.
7. Register for Worlds and Gear Up!
You’ve claimed your spot, you’ve planned out your 2020 calendar, and you’re eying an Airbnb in Edmonton. Now what? You will soon start receiving information from USAT about the deadline for registering for the World Championships, travel details, and purchasing your required gear, including the Team USA Parade of Nations outfit and your racing kit (yep, that’s the coveted kit with your last name screen-printed across the backside). Then, train hard and be ready to rock those stars and stripes in August, 2020.
For more information on the USAT National Championship events, click here.