Thursday, April 17, 2008

Greg and Laura Bennett join the exclusive ranks of husband-wife Olympians

Q&A with Greg Bennett after selection to his second Australian Olympic team

By: Timothy Carlson - IT Senior Correspondent

With a 5th place at the Mooloolaba World Cup, Australia’s Greg Bennett convinced Triathlon Australia selectors that he was the best man for the third and final Australian men’s 2008 Olympic Triathlon team. Although three-time ITU World Champion Peter Robertson had a strong 4th place last Sunday in Ishigaki, Japan, a variety of factors led TA national coach Bill Davoren and his staff to pick the man who finished 4th at the 2004 Olympics and won $500,000 for running the table at the U.S.’s 2007 Life Time Fitness series over Robbo, Australia’s long-running all-or-nothing thrill show who either pulls off miracles or blows up. For despite Robertson’s thrilling World Championships wins in 2001, 2003 and 2005, and silvers in 2000 and 2002, the larrikin express broke down in both the 2000 and 2004 Olympics and suffered through injury plagued ITU World Cup seasons in 2006 and 2007. Bennett, on the other hand, rose to ITU World number one for more than a year in the early part of this decade and has remained one of the fastest runners in the sport and most reliable elite competitors anywhere.

Inside Triathlon: Not long ago it seemed as if you had resigned yourself to abandon hope for any further Olympic appearances. What changed?

Greg Bennett: It wasn't that I gave up on my Olympic ambitions only that the priority this time was to make sure Laura got her start at the Games. Once she had qualified first for the USA team that gave me some breathing room to see if I could impress the selectors. While we focused on Laura's ambitions of making the team I focused on helping her and my racing in the States. The Life Time Fitness series is still very much important to me and the Olympic Games will fall right in the middle of the series so I know I will be in good shape.

IT: Did Triathlon Australia officials coaches contact you and urge you to try again?

GB: Once I mentioned to them I was interested (in Olympic selection for 2008) they informed me that I needed to race a few World Cups. I told them I would not race a lot of events, but that I would race Mooloolaba in March and show them my fitness. I also mentioned that I would not be in peak shape in March but would build for my race season from June to October.

IT: What did they say were their criteria?

GB: The criteria were not only to look at the last year or even last 2 years but to look at an athlete’s performances for the last 4-5 years. The criteria would look at how an athlete would fit into the team -- and even, if needed, how to play a role in the race itself. The list of criteria the selectors looked at was long and extensive and gave the selectors the freedom to nominate the best team to try to win gold at the Games.

IT: Do you think your great year in non-drafting races in the 2007 Life Time series
have any impact to any sort of welcoming feeling you got from TA -- if any?

GB: I don't really know what the selectors were saying around the table at the meeting. The Life Time series may have helped or it may have hurt for the fact I missed so many World Cups and last year’s World Championships. The fact is I have absolutely no regrets for racing the Life Time Fitness series... a series I believe is only going to get bigger and better in future year for both professionals and amateurs alike.

IT: I am guessing - I do not know -- that they were measuring performances in
the first three World Cups of the year - Mooloolaba, New Plymouth, Ishigaki. How did you limit your world cup races to one?

GB: As I mentioned above the selection criteria was based on a long extensive list. That led to a welcome freedom of selection. It isn't one race or two races. They are able to look across the board at who will work best for the country in the sport of triathlon.

IT: I guess Mooloolaba counted most because the field was strongest. Therefore, Robbo's 4th place - one spot better than your 5th -- counted less. Do you think that was true?

GB: These three events were simply a guide. They were by no means the only criteria for selection. I am sure they weighed myself and Robbo up against each other over a long period of time. He is a fantastic athlete and has proven he can do amazing things.

IT: Do you suppose your clutch almost-a-medal performance in Athens weighed on the decision?

GB: I'm sure it helped.

IT: Or was it your consistent high finishes in your occasional forays on the World Cup circuit?

GB: These would have helped as well.

IT: Were you counting on supporting (your wife) Laura (who made the U.S, Olympic team last September) in Beijing? Will this get in the way of that at all?

GB: Not at all... in fact I think it works even better. I was committed of course to the Olympics with Laura but both being in only increases our focus as a team into the Games. We have worked together for years into major competitions and to be honest I believe we work better together when we are both striving for perfection.

IT: Laura said that you both were happy her 4th place and your 5th place finishes early in the season at Mooloolaba. In the long run, is this better than coming out with your best race so early?

GB: We were over the moon with our performances at Mooloolaba. We had just finished our conditioning phase and neither one of us was looking forward to the intensity of racing. To handle the threshold of the race and still be in the game was very pleasing.

IT: Can you beat Javier Gomez in Beijing?

GB: Of course. I believe everyone is beatable with the right preparation. Javier is obviously the Man who has the gold medal to lose and I know (he) is focused on making sure he doesn't. Laura and I both love to race and the bigger the event more we love it... so we plan to both put on a good show!

IT: Will this interrupt your effort to defend your Life Time Fitness titles?

GB: Not at all. Minneapolis and New York in July sit perfectly between World Championships, Des Moines in June and the Olympics in August. Following the games I will hit Chicago, LA and Dallas. My season is between June and October and the Olympics being in August sit right in the middle of my season.

IT: Congratulations to you and Laura!

GB: Thanks!

No comments: