USA Triathlon (USAT) has announced the formation of Project Podium, a men’s elite development program to be based at Arizona State University beginning in August 2018. The program is designed to develop top young male triathletes in the United States with the goal to achieve medal performances in major international competition and, ultimately, in the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic Games.
The program will enable college-aged triathletes with elite competitive potential to train in a daily high-performance environment while earning an undergraduate degree at ASU through its online program or at one of four campuses throughout Arizona. Athletes may receive scholarship funds and stipends from USA Triathlon based on competitive performance.
“USA Triathlon is proud to partner with Arizona State University to bring Project Podium to life,” said Rocky Harris, CEO of USA Triathlon. “This program has been designed as a new model for developing future Olympians that represents an unprecedented opportunity for college-aged men to pursue triathlon at the elite level while earning a degree that will serve them well beyond their triathlon careers. I am confident in our ability to recruit top talent to the program, and I look forward to seeing what the participants accomplish in the years to come.”
“We are thrilled to partner with USA Triathlon,” said Ray Anderson, Vice President of University Athletics at ASU. “This is a one-of-a-kind partnership. One where there will be an opportunity for Olympic-calibre triathletes to train and prepare for international competition while studying and pursuing a degree at a world-class University that has been number one in innovation. We share the same values as USA Triathlon and want to see Olympic hopefuls realize success in competition and in the classroom.”
Triathlon was named an NCAA Emerging Sport for Women in January 2014, giving female athletes the chance to compete in the sport at the NCAA level with the support of their university’s athletic departments. Many male high school prospects, however, continue to opt for NCAA run or swim programs versus continuing in the sport of triathlon due to the financial and academic benefits of established NCAA programs.
“USA Triathlon’s pipeline of elite female athletes is strong, but we have not achieved the same international success on the men’s side,” said Andy Schmitz, USA Triathlon High Performance General Manager. “Our college-aged men lose critical years of training and experience when they step away from the sport to pursue NCAA running or swimming. This delay not only disrupts their talent development, but also impairs our retention of top athletes. We identified a need for a collegiate high-performance environment, and we are thrilled to work with Arizona State University to make this program a reality.”
The program will be owned by USA Triathlon and housed at ASU. USA Triathlon will operate the squad with the daily direction of a to-be-named Project Podium head coach. ASU Women’s Triathlon Head Coach Cliff English will serve as Program Director.
“I am very pleased to be Program Director for the newly announced USA Triathlon Project Podium,” English said. “This first-of-its-kind program will combine the resources of ASU and USA Triathlon in a dual partnership that is focused on producing Olympic-level male triathletes. It will also provide undergraduate academic opportunities while operating in an elite daily performance environment. I believe we can achieve lofty Olympic goals in building this program through not only my experience and guidance, but also with the support of both ASU and USA Triathlon, as well as with the right coaching staff.”
Program participants will have access to the Sun Devils’ athletic facilities, including the aquatic facility, weight room and outdoor track for regular training sessions. Sun Devil Athletics will provide the squad with sports medicine resources, strength and conditioning services, and nutrition counselling. The university will also provide academic support services.
The target demographic for program recruits is ‘male athletes under 25 years of age who possess significant competitive potential, are skilled and experienced in the sport of triathlon, and are committed to the draft-legal Olympic-distance format of racing’.
The squad will be composed of 12-16 athletes, at least half of whom will be under-25 male prospects. The remaining spots will be open to established elite triathletes who are also committed to the draft-legal Olympic-distance format. The older, more established athletes will be selected via an application process, and are expected to ‘contribute to a culture of excellence and serve as role models for the younger squad members’.
USA Triathlon will begin its search for a head coach immediately.
For more information about the USA Triathlon Project Podium, or to inquire about the recruitment process, interested parties can contact Andy Schmitz via andy.schmitz[at]usatriathlon.org.