By Erin Greene on 29/04/15 at 8:54 am
ITU recently welcomed 12 athletes from eight countries to a training camp in New Plymouth, New Zealand as a part of its scholarship development program. The athletes that were selected have shown a high level of competence in World Cup or Continental Cup events and are looking to qualify for Rio 2016, but need support in order to do so.
The primary objective of this project is to provide resources and expertise to athletes, while also increasing the number of coaches from emerging/developing National Federations gaining experience in the preparation and support of athletes competing at a World Cup level.
Manuel Huerta, who represented the US at the 2012 London Olympics, but has since switched his National Federation affiliation to Puerto Rico, was one of the camp participants.
“It’s great. Having the ITU staff, coaches and athletes from around the world with the same goals as you not only helps you on race day but motivates me even more to go after my career goals. It’s an opportunity to get support at races that I wouldn’t get from my country. It also provides me help to my qualification process for Rio,” Huerta said.
Estonia’s Aleksandr Latin, who also took part in the camp, agreed with Huerta saying that being a part of Team ITU allows him the opportunity to focus on his training and performance without expending energy worrying about the additional pressures involved with traveling to a race.
“It means a lot to have such a good team around you. You always have someone to train with, and it is big financial help as well. Team ITU coaches are very experienced and they are always keen to help me with some good advice such as cornering techniques or race tactics. I always use this opportunity to get as much information as it is possible,” said Latin, who also helps out fellow teammates and competitors by serving as a translator when needed.
A veteran triathlete who showed early promise in her youth, Slovenia’s Mateja Simic joined the men as a camp participant. Despite a successful triathlon career early on, Simic found it difficult to make the jump from a top junior athlete to a competitive elite athlete until she began working with Team ITU.
“I didn’t find the right environment to move to the elite level, but then in 2011 I found it when I was selected for Team ITU for the first time,” Simic said. “That is when I began to understand that I could become an elite triathlete, even I was already 31.
That same year, Simic competed in seven races over nine weeks across four different continents in order qualify for the London Olympics. In that time frame, which Simic remembers as one of the most challenging of her career, she did indeed qualify for the Olympics.
“Since 2011 I have taken part at Team ITU opportunities every year. I couldn’t do what I am doing without ITU team. I am learning from coaches, athletes and ITU staff. It has given me the confidence that I am able to compete on the elite level.”
There are four additional opportunities for athletes to participate in Team ITU this year. While applications have closed for the Chengdu and Huatulco World Cups, applications are still open for the Tiszaujvaros and Alanya World Cups. Click here for more information.