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Your Road to the Olympic Team - How to Become An Olympic Triathlete


Updated November 07, 2008

Many current and former Olympic triathletes started as youth triathletes and competed in "kids' triathlons" around the country. Young triathletes between the ages of 13 and 15 have the opportunity to compete in draft-legal triathlons, called Youth Elite Cups, run by USA Triathlon (USAT). These super-sprint distance races mimic the ITU World Cup and Olympic format of racing.

USAT also organizes athlete development camps for experienced, competitive junior triathletes, ages 12 to 19. Camps are staffed by USAT certified coaches and guest coaches with single sport expertise. Select Camps serve USAT's more experienced, competitive junior athletes. Athletes spend time honing race tactics, improving their transitions, and mastering bike handling.

At the college level, the most promising and talented triathletes are invited to join USAT's Collegiate Team. The team is comprised of up to eight athletes that live and train at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, during their summers away from college. Many of the collegiate athletes are former Junior National Team members. The Collegiate Team program is designed to train and educate these talented triathletes, and support their move from the collegiate level, through the National Teams program.

The USAT's National Teams program provides administrative, performance, and financial support structure to assist athletes in achieving optimal results at the Olympic Games, Pan American Games, and ITU World Championships. Members of the National Teams represent the best of the best in the triathlon world and must meet very high qualifications in order to be accepted onto the team.


The International Triathlon Union, headquartered in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, was formed in 1989, and organizes official world championship series races for the sport of triathlon (swim-bike-run races). It was formed in part to give the growing sport of triathlon an official organizing body and in part to advocate for the entry of triathlon into the Olympic games.


In order to be eligible for the United States' Olympic team team, triathletes must be American citizens and be a registered USTA elite athlete.

American athletes must also meet one of the following guidelines established by the International Triathlon Union (ITU):

  • Win the Pan American Games (Ala Julie Ertel or Andy Potts.)
  • Win the 2008 ITU Triathlon World Championships
  • Be in the top 125 of the ITU Olympic Qualification Rankings
  • Be in the top 125 of the ITU World Cup Rankings


There will be a total of 110 competitors in the triathlon at the 2008 Beijing Games -- 55 men and 55 women. A maximum of 8 NOCs may have a maximum of 3 athletes per event. All other NOCs may have a maximum of 2 athletes per event.

Spots will go to the following triathletes:

  • Winner of each of the five continental championships
  • Top three finishers for each NOC at the 2008 World Championships
  • Thirty-nine places to the NOCs of the highest ranked athletes on the ITU Olympic Qualification Ranking.
  • Five places to the first NOCs on ITU Continental Ranking without eligible athletes already.
  • Two Tripartite Commission invitations

Back to Main Olympic Triathlon page

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