Triathletes start the Ironman Triathlon on the Big Island with the swimming competition. Next April, Honolulu will host U.S. Olympic trials for the triathlon event at the 2004 Summer Games.

Honolulu is chosen
to host Olympic trials

It is one of two cities
that will have trials
for the 2004 triathlon

Honolulu is one of two cities selected to host the U.S. Olympic trials for the triathlon event at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens, officials said.

The Hawaii race will be held April 18, while a race in Bellingham, Wash., will be held sometime in June, USA Triathlon announced this week.

"We are looking forward to getting the communities of Oahu and Bellingham excited about triathlon and the Olympics," USA Triathlon Executive Director Steve Locke said.

Honolulu and Bellingham were chosen from among four cities. The other two cities vying to host the trials were Clermont, Fla., and Tempe, Ariz. Hosting the trials provides excellent opportunities for media exposure for the state, said U.S. Olympic Committee Vice President Herman Frazier.

"I certainly look forward to talking with Steve Locke, who is a good friend of mine," said Frazier, who is also the University of Hawaii athletic director.

"This is absolutely a plus for the city and state on many levels. There will be a lot of media covering the trials and sending reports all over the country. Not only will the trials be highly publicized at the time, but I would suspect NBC would make some of it part of their highlight package that will be repeated often," Frazier said.

The cities were evaluated and selected by a committee that included USA Triathlon staff, board members, athletes and coaches.

"We had a brilliant discussion and the vote was very close," said Valerie Ellsworth Gattis, president of USA Triathlon and chairwoman of the committee. "We weighed all the variables of the courses -- swim, bike and run, the transitions, race management, weather and hill gradient."

The triathlon made its Olympic debut at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney. The event includes a 1,500-meter swim, a 25-mile bike ride and a 6 1/4-mile run.

"In the end it came down to the athletes and what would give them the best ability to compete and qualify for Athens," Gattis said.

The trials will be International Triathlon Union points races and will be open to athletes from around the world. However, athletes must be ranked in the ITU's top 125 one week before the races to compete.

The first American male and female finishers in Hawaii and at the ITU world championship in Portugal will qualify for the U.S. Olympic team, which will have a maximum of three men and three women.

The winner of the Bellingham race will not automatically receive a spot on the team. Instead, race results will be used in the computation of the scores to determine the third male and female team members.

USA Triathlon spokeswoman B.J. Hoeptner Evans said as many as 40 athletes are expected to participate in each of the U.S. trials.

New York consultant John Korff helped submit Hawaii's bid for the trials and said the main selling points were easy.

"Go outside and look around," he said. "It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure this out."

Hawaii is also host to the Ironman Triathlon World Championships every year on the Big Island.

Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris, who was attending a conference in San Francisco yesterday, said he was pleased with the selection.

"It's another success story in our efforts to diversify our visitor industry by trying to bring in sports tourism," he said through a spokeswoman. "We are very supportive of this event and will assist wherever is necessary, and it certainly helps to put Hawaii on the map as a great place to bring key sporting events."

Star-Bulletin reporter Dave Reardon contributed to this report.


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