Continued from LAVA Magazine, August/September 2011: Issue 07, page 160 (subscribe now!)
For Issue 7, we got Olympic team veteran Hunter Kemper to sit down withteam hopeful, Ben Collins. Here’s part of the conversation we didn’t publish in the magazine.
Hunter Kemper: I think [USA Triathlon] needs to take a serious look at team racing and I think that needs to happen now. You don’t want to all of a sudden try it out at a race like PanAms or a WCS (World Championship Series), because it’s not going to work if it’s not practiced. It’s talked about—you hear athletes and coaches talking about team tactics all the time—but it still hasn’t been put in place.
Ben Collins: OK, so how do we put it in place? What can we, as athletes, do to try out team tactics and see if it can work in international competition?
Hunter: It doesn’t take much. We just need to get groups of athletes together who want to race together and then send them to a race. It doesn’t have to be a big race. Start off small. Let’s get a solid group of three athletes together and send them to a Pan American Cup in South America and see if we can own that race. If it works, let’s send that group to a World Cup and see if that performance can be replicated. We just have to find the right groups of athletes and give them a chance to practice it on a competitive stage.
Ben: But we need leadership to put this all together. Since Scott [Schnitzspahn] left, we don’t really have a strong leader in the high performance department. We’re still waiting for a new high performance director and in the meantime it’s like no one wants to step on anybody’s toes.
Hunter: Absolutely. Hopefully that happens soon and hopefully we can come to international competition with a different approach. We haven’t won a single medal on the men’s side in the Olympics, so clearly something has to change. That could be why [USAT] reserved a discretionary spot for next summer’s Games. Maybe they want to have option of selecting a domestique. But if it comes down to a discretionary spot I think that will create an entirely new level of controversy. Every athlete will be making a case that they would be the best team player.
Ben: I think the biggest problem is that no one knows what kind of athlete they’re looking for with that discretionary spot. We don’t have any guidelines. We don’t even know who is going to pick that spot. And team tactics won’t work if you just pick an athlete, name him the domestique, and hope he works well with the other two. It’s never going to work if these guys aren’t training together and practicing team tactics day in and day out.