Olympic Games Qualifier:
I wonder WHERE he went to college?? Following in the steps of class of 1988's (and Hopkins native) Bob Kempainen, The Big Green have another Olympian. Not in Track and Field but in Triathlon.
By Nate Herpich, NBCOlympics.comLast weekend Jarrod Shoemaker was a surprise qualifier for the Beijing Games in the men's triathlon by taking home an automatic selection reserved for the top American finisher in the Beijing BG Triathlon World Cup. Shoemaker stayed strong in the water, then rode hard on the bike, ultimately outpacing two former Olympians among his teammates, to finish 11th overall. The 25-year-old from Sudbury, Mass., talks to NBCOlympics.com about the mask he wore during his stay in China, partying on the Great Wall, his friendship with Alan Webb, and his beloved Red Sox. N.H.: First off, congratulations on qualifying for the Olympics.
J.S.: Thank you. I actually just got off the phone with my coach. We're planning out the year in advance.N.H.: Have things changed now that you've qualified for Beijing?
J.S.: No, we're not going to change any of the events for the rest of the year. Mostly we're working on my swimming, which I need to continue to improve on.
N.H.: You're fairly new to the sport, yet you've already made your mark as a triathlete, winning the U23 World Championship in 2005, and now, you're going to the Olympics. To what do you attribute your meteoric rise to the top?
J.S.: I really do not know how quickly I was able to rise through the ranks, but I think a lot of it had to do with my athletic background. I started the sport in 2004 directly after I finished at Dartmouth. I jumped into training and raced my first professional race at the end of July. Ever since I started I have done my best to learn from every athlete I talk to. I try to learn as much as possible and become a student of the sport.
N.H.: You were competing against two former Olympians for the first spot on the American team. What were your expectations coming into the race?
J.S.: My real goal coming in was just to get top three. One of our qualifying criteria was that you have to place in the top three Americans in one of the races to be eligible for selection.* I knew that with five other great American athletes in Beijing it would be tough to come in the top three, but it would get me one of the criteria I'd need. I also knew that being top three at this race would boost my confidence as three Americans are selected for the Olympics.
N.H.: Take us through your pre-race routine.
J.S.: I don't necessarily have a routine, I just try to stay relaxed. The more negative thoughts going through your mind before a race the harder it is to feel good. I try to stay relaxed and keep my thoughts positive remembering all of the hard work I have done to get to this point. I also like to stay relaxed because if you stay tense your body wastes more energy.
N.H.: How does one approach a qualifying event, strategy-wise? All six American men were fast in the water. Are you working together at that point?
J.S.: No, not in this race. (laughs) There's never any doubt who you're competing against. But in the greater picture, we've got a great group of guys.... One of the great things that the U.S. has is a great group of swimmers. My biggest limiter over the past three years has been my inconsistent swim. I knew that the other Americans would be out in the top pack of the swim. Andy [Potts] usually leads the swim and Brian Fleischmann and Hunter Kemper are usually out within the top 10, so if I wanted to have a chance at making the team I knew I would have to swim with the front pack. Over the past two weeks we have been training in Korea and during that time it was great to see how fast the other U.S. athletes were swimming.
N.H.: Tell us about the Beijing course -- obviously, you were very successful. Did you expect this course to be especially suited to your strengths?
J.S.: For most of our races we do swims that are two loops of 750 meters. The course in Beijing is one 1500-meter loop with an opening leg of 580 meters. The advantage to this is that it allows more time for people to sort themselves out at the correct speed before hitting the first turn buoy. I usually get caught up in the chaos around the turn buoys since my swim is not as good as somebody like Andy Potts; however, on this course I had more time swimming and less time worrying about running into other people. I did not alter my training at all, but I feel it allowed me to swim, instead of worrying about getting caught up around the buoys.
N.H.: There's so much talk about the air quality in Beijing. Does this come into play at all?
J.S.: The USOC sports science staff has been working hard on how the pollution affects our performances in Beijing. They recommended that we wear a mask to help filter out the pollution and keep our lungs clear before our race. I wore the mask every time I was outside and even when I was training outside. It took a while to get used to, but I really felt the difference it made. The air quality seemed to be much better this year, although that might have been my use of the mask for the few days I was there. Last year I had a hard time breathing after the race, but this year it seemed better. However, over the past two years when we raced there were days when you could see the sun, and that was not the case this year.
N.H.: Did you get a chance to check out the city? Tell us where we have to go when we visit.
J.S.: Go to the Great Wall of China. The organizers held the post-race party on the Great Wall again this year. It is so beautiful, especially at night when the wall is lit up. Two years ago we all went and climbed the Wall after the race and I was amazed at how they built it. It goes straight up the side of mountains and is so steep in places it is very hard to walk up. When you finally get to the top of a section the view is amazing.
N.H.: Talk about the importance of coming from a family of triathletes. Both you and Laura Bennett, the first American woman to qualify for Beijing, grew up surrounded by triathletes. Your uncle competes in Ironman, while your sister Jenna also competes.
J.S.: Right, my uncle competed in the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii in 1998, and my sister is a professional triathlete. My parents always encouraged us to play sports growing up, so it was a competitive household, and I played every sport you can imagine growing up. I played baseball, soccer, basketball, wrestling, swimming, hockey on my pond in my backyard, and lacrosse. I enjoyed learning different sports and just being athletic. From an early age I watched my parents run every day and compete in the Boston Marathon every year. They never made us compete in sports, but have always been supportive of our goals.
N.H.: As a senior at Dartmouth you competed at NCAA Nationals in the 5K. Any runners you've met or hope to meet at Beijing?
J.S.: Alan Webb and I have known each other for awhile. I sent him an email after he set the American record [in the 1500 meters this past July], and we go back and forth, he sent me an email congratulating me on qualifying for Beijing. My senior year, we actually ran against each other in high school at the Foot Locker National Championships in the 5k.N.H.: Do you ever share training tips?
J.S.: (Laughs) No. I'd love to be able to run [an American record 1500], but I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon.
N.H.: Like any good New Englander, you're a huge Red Sox fan. Size up their chances in the playoffs.
J.S.: One of the things I miss the most about being on the road is not being able to follow U.S. pro sports. I am a huge Red Sox fan and while I am away I try to watch as many Red Sox games online as I can. Luckily in Beijing the time change is 12 hours, so 8pm games start at 8am over there. I usually get on my computer and turn on Gamecast as I make calls to home and plan out my training day. It helps keep my mind off of racing. We've got good pitching this year, so I like their chances. (*Note: The first two members of the Olympic team are the top finishers at the Beijing test event, and then at the U.S. Olympic trials. A third member will be selected based on best two out of three finishes for those two races and the Hy-Vee Triathlon Olympic Selection Event in Des Moines, Iowa.)
Also: Read Q& A with Laura Bennett