After a false start, the women dived in again during the 2004 USA Triathlon yesterday. The swim portion of the event took place in the waters off Queen's Surf beach for a distance of 1,500 meters, or about one mile.

Elite athletes are
Waikiki treat

The USA Triathlon is Hawaii's
first Olympic qualifier

Nestled in a lawn chair on the sidewalk fronting Queen's Surf beach yesterday, Gloria Pow beamed as she watched some of the world's best triathletes compete for a spot in this summer's Olympic Games.

The avid walker -- who is proud to say she finished a few marathons in her day -- could not have asked for a better gift on her 70th birthday.

"I think it's fantastic," she said, her wide smile echoing the sentiment.

Thousands filled sidewalks and beach space up and down the Gold Coast yesterday, coming for the Honolulu Triathlon in the morning and the men's and women's Olympic triathlon trials in the afternoon.

This is the first time an Olympic event has been held in the islands. Organizers estimated the attraction -- coupled with the Honolulu Triathlon -- brought out as many as 25,000 people in the course of the day.

"We were really jazzed," said John Korff, who helped bring the Olympic trials to Honolulu. "Kalakaua (Avenue) was jammed with people ringing bells and screaming and shouting. There was a huge buzz from the crowd, a lot of energy."

When the women's Olympic qualifier began at 12:30 p.m., spectators were standing and sitting four deep on the beachside walkway. Some held binoculars to follow the athletes, while others stood on their toes to see the action.

And when a few swimmers made a false start at the beginning of the race, so did the crowd -- applauding and cheering for a trial that had not yet begun.

Japanese newlyweds crossed Kalakaua Boulevard minutes ahead of the final leg of the women's elite division of the 2004 USA Triathlon yesterday.

The first American man and woman to finish the race were guaranteed a spot on the U.S. Olympic triathlon team, which will compete this August in Athens, Greece.

Idaho resident Barb Lindquist won the women's race. Hunter Kemper, of Colorado, was the first American to cross the finish line on the men's side.

The top three competitors from both the men's and women's races go on to compete at next month's Triathlon World Championships in Spain.

Sports enthusiasts said that yesterday's trials course was a grueling one, similar to the one Olympic triathletes will experience in Athens and made more difficult by strong tradewinds and choppy water.

After swimming for a mile in choppy water, the triathletes jumped on bikes to make five 5-mile loops around Diamond Head. The race finished with a 6.2-mile run.

"I came here because this is the first race I've ever seen," said Mililani resident Carlton Suematsu. "And," he added with a laugh, "I have a hard time imagining these bikes going 50 mph."

The Honolulu Triathlon and the trials closed a number of Waikiki and East Honolulu roads throughout the day, which backed up traffic in areas. But most said they had not had too much trouble getting to the races. A number of Honolulu Triathlon competitors -- along with their fans -- decided to stick around to watch the Olympic trials rather than navigate the roads.

"This is the highlight," said Jeff Melichar, who came from Maui with a friend to compete in the triathlon.

The two sat on a beach wall, with sports drinks in hand, waiting for the race to begin.

"This is really a treat," Melichar said.

K.L. Ho came to watch the race with his wife and daughter.

"I think it's a good break for a Sunday afternoon," said Ho, who stood along Kalakaua Avenue waiting to see the biking portion of the trials. "You get to see great athletes, and it's cheap."

Below, vacationers Derrell Shunk, left, and Pati Myers, both of Stockton, Calif., cheered elite triathlete Julie Swail, of Irvine, Calif., on Kalakaua Avenue during the 10-kilometer race of the triathlon.

The gathered crowd atop Kilauea Avenue in Kaimuki cheered for passing elite female triathletes during the bicycle leg of the 2004 USA Triathlon yesterday. Among those cheering were "casual bicyclist" Brennan Tom, who held a sign of encouragement.

The ladies of Halau Ka Waikahe Lani Maile a me Kahulaliwai danced at Kapiolani Park during the triathlon.


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