St. Louisans set sights on 2012 Olympics |

St. Louisans set sights on 2012 Olympics

The 2012 Olympics have moved to the front burner for St. Louis natives Sarah Haskins and Jillian Petersen.

In just two weeks, the pair will compete for spots on the U.S. Olympic team at the International Triathlon Union’s event in London, staged on the Olympic course.

Two of the three spots on the team could be filled, if two U.S. women finish in the top nine of the race, scheduled for Aug.7. The women will have one other chance to qualify, at an ITU event to be determined next year. If a spot remains, USA Triathlon’s selection committee will name an athlete.

Haskins and Petersen, though, would prefer to make the team sooner rather than later.

“I’d have all year to focus on the Games rather than focusing on the trials and the Games at the same time,” said Haskins, a member of the 2008 U.S. team in Beijing. “It would be a stress-free build-up.”

Haskins was the third of three U.S. women to qualify in 2008, in part because of a nerve condition in her calf, but still managed to finish 11th in Beijing.

Surgery following the Olympics initially seemed to correct the problem, though another calf injury forced her to skip the last three races of 2010. Since then, she has become a believer in muscle activation techniques, exercises that stimulate muscles that have become inactive and weak. Haskins said the exercises have relieved tightness and pain in the calf. Finally.

“I’ve felt really good,” she said. “I noticed my recovery from races is much quicker. It’s nice to have stress-free training.”

Haskins also has let off steam during training by focusing some of her frustrations on her coach and husband, Nate Kortuem. A former triathlete, Kortuem also serves as Haskins’ mechanic and webmaster.

“It’s kind of funny. The year before he started coaching me, it was almost like he was coaching me. So I said, ‘Let’s try it,'” said Haskins, who won state swimming and cross country titles at Parkway South High. “Sometimes it can be a little hard to separate personal and professional. But I can be much more vocal with Nate. I can say, ‘I hate this workout!’ Sometimes, you feel like you’re working 24/7, but it’s nice because he understands everything I’m going through.”

Perhaps more important to her success this year was staying close to home. Haskins and Kortuem decided to minimize travel this year and compete in more U.S. races. The strategy has paid off. Haskins has won five of seven races she has entered since March, finishing second in her first race in Clermont, Fla., and 15th at an ITU race last month in Kitzbuhel, Austria.

Petersen, the Class 4 cross country champion as a senior at Francis Howell High and an All-Big 12 distance runner at the University of Missouri, has taken the opposite approach. She has done the bulk of her racing and training in Europe. The biggest advantage is training in the race conditions of Europe, where the temperature averages 60 to 70 degrees and the humidity is high. Petersen’s U.S. training base in Colorado Springs averages daytime highs in the 80s and 90s with no humidity.

So, she said she was willing to give up the comforts of home for “getting accustomed to the weather and the time zone, getting the experiences in racing the quality of field that is comparable to what the Olympic Games will be.”

Petersen started the season strong, winning the Miami International Triathlon in March, then finished fourth in Clermont and seventh in Ishigaki, Japan, in April. Her performances have tailed off, though, especially her 48th place last week at the ITU race in Hamburg, Germany.

“I’ve had a rough middle of the season, and haven’t been on my top form,” Petersen said from England, where she is training for the Olympic shakedown race. “No injuries this season, just fatigue from traveling.”

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Posted on: July 26, 2011
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