Olympic Dreams: 6 US Triathlete Stories at Rio 2016

The Rio Olympics 2016 story has already engulfed an exuberant global audience! The test triathlete and paratriathlete events, held on 1st and 2nd August, have seen triathletes praise the unique sea-water swim, the challenging hilly course, and the crowd at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. For fans, the stage could not have better set for an intense thriller of a competition!

Unfolding within this international narrative of athletic destinies are stories of six triathletes from the United States. The US triathletes’ team 2016 is a rich mix of proficient and upcoming triathlon champions, whose Olympic dreams will strike a chord with anyone who has grown up loving sports. Here are famous achievements of the US triathletes racing at the Rio Olympics 2016 and some lesser known facts about them that you will enjoy.

1. Gwen Jorgensen

Age: 30

Hometown: Waukesha, Wisconsin

Rank: 3


(Image Credit: www.nbcolympics.com)

Twice International Triathlon Union World Champion (2015, 2014) and 17-time winner of ITU World Triathlon Series races, Jorgensen is also a three-time USA Triathlon Elite National Champion. She has gathered 21 career World Triathlon Series medals. These feats have made her the most celebrated female athlete in this event’s history.

Once a swimmer and runner at the University of Wisconsin – Madison – Jorgensen’s triathlete career easily dominates any conversation. But few know that in high school, she failed to make the national swim team. In order to sustain herself, Jorgensen took business courses and became a tax accountant. She was crunching numbers with Ernst & Young in Milwaukee, when the USAT convinced her she should do triathlon as a hobby! The rest is incredibly, history.

Gwen Jorgensen’s story is one of resolute hard work and she is aiming for gold at Rio. All eyes are set on this national triathlon favorite, come August 20th.

2. Katie Zaferes

Age: 27

Hometown: Hampstead, Maryland

Rank: 14


(Image Credit: katiezaferes.com)

From Abu Dhabi to Stockholm, followers have seen Katie Zaferes land the runners-up prize no less than 5 times at the 2015 ITU World Triathlon Series events. She also claimed 3rd position at the 2015 ITU World Triathlon Gold Coast and stood 3rd again in the 2015 USA Triathlon Elite National Championships.

Zaferes prefers her story composed as poems. The three-time ITU World Cup Champion is known to write race recaps in rhymes. Zaferes grew up playing lacrosse, soccer, and swimming and running. She went on to hold school steeplechase records at Syracuse.

Triathlons must mean the world to Katie – after all she married fellow triathlete Tommy Zaferes in 2015, who she believes is an expert in listening to her and has a gift of humor in tough times. We think she has more motivation than ever to score here at Rio!

Katie Zaferes interview video

3. Sarah True

Age: 35

Hometown: Hanover, New Hampshire

Rank: 19


(Image Credit: alchetron.com)

Sarah True is a two-time ITU World Triathlon Stockholm Champion (2015, 2014). She has potential for a major victory at Rio; she was 3rd at the 2015 ITU World Triathlon London, 2nd at 2015 ITU World Triathlon Gold Coast; and 4th in the 2012 Olympics.

All this attention drives some interesting facts about True into near-obscurity. She ran cross country and track at a Hanover high school. But they did not have a swim team for girls, so she raced with the boys’ team!

Today, Sarah is married to professional runner Ben True and she believes going to Rio as a couple is a victory in itself; we heartily agree. Go True!

Sarah True (née Groff) short video

4. Joe Maloy

Age: 30

Hometown: Wildwood Crest, New Jersey

Rank: 20


(Image Credit: https://www.teamusa.org/)

This Jersey Shore lifeguard’s laid-back look can fool you. Joe Maloy earned the nickname ‘Freak’ growing up, for his competitive streak and workouts. He has numerous achievements under his belt. Maloy stood 6th in the 2016 ITU World Triathlon Gold Coast. The 2014 USA Triathlon National Champion has also claimed 3rd position in the 2014 Cozumel ITU World Cup.

Teachers at Joe Maloy’s school will bear testimony to one of the first entries he made in his journal back in first grade – “I am going to the Olympics”.

Maloy’s Olympic triathlon dreams have been created from a boyhood spent on the beaches at Wildwood Crest, which recently honored him before he headed out to Brazil. This Boston College swimmer will be cheered on at the Copacabana triathlon by his parents and younger brother John, as he fulfills his lifelong dream.

Joe Maloy short video

5. Ben Kanute

Age: 23

Hometown: Geneva, Illinois

Rank: 53


(Image Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ben_Kanute)

Rank 53? No problem.

Kanute was 2015 USA Triathlon Elite National Champion, 2013 USA Triathlon Collegiate National Champion and he stood 2nd at the 2014 Tongyeong ITU World Cup. His aggressive grit and training paid off in both 2008 and 2010 when he clinched the USA Triathlon Junior Elite National Champion title. Marmion Academy swim coach Bill Schalz firmly believes the Kanute family’s idea of Disney World would be going somewhere west to ride bikes. His parents (both have done Ironman Triathlons) have been his biggest influences and supporters.

So, don’t let Kanute’s age deceive you. He made a strong show at the final qualifying race at Yokohama, Japan and looks forward to the Rio triathlon. He has grown up idolizing some of the Olympians he’ll compete with in a few days, but Ben Kanute’s ambitions drive him to view them as equals. May the best man win!

Ben Kanute short video

6. Gregory Billington

Age: 28

Hometown: Spokane, Washington

Rank: 39


(Image Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greg_Billington)

Greg Billington was Top American finisher (15th) at the Rio de Janeiro ITU World Olympic Qualification. He was also 2014 Hong Kong ASTC Triathlon Asian Cup Champion and two-time USA Triathlon Under-23 National Champion besides winning various other titles.

Growing up at the RAF Lakenheath US Air Force Base in England, Greg enjoyed a very active childhood. One summer he cycled 1,000 miles in Scandinavia – he was all of 11 years. Later, he dominated in cross country and track at Lakenheath High School. He also took dance classes as a kid and is studying up his Samba moves while training rigorously to win medals.

Billington’s opportunity to represent the US at the Rio Olympics is uniquely personal. A lot of his childhood was spent overseas and he now sees the Rio triathlon as a chance to perform in the sport he has been perfecting for years, before a watching world.

As we witness one of the grittiest sporting events unfold at the Copacabana beach, these life-stories and dreams are a good reminder. When the world sees a crowd of athletes sweating it out to cross that finish line, we can look deeper and see stories – stories in full swing, blooming like summer flowers against all odds. These stirring stories have been crafted painstakingly, year after year, and some of them will achieve an Olympian conclusion very soon.

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