Two have hopes to run, bike, swim to Athens

Hawaii offers first chance for U.S. triathlon berth



April 11, 2004|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Joanna Zeiger has traded the Jones Falls Valley for Colorado's altitude, but her goal hasn't changed.

One of the fittest women in the world, Zeiger is seeking her second Olympic berth in the triathlon. Four years ago, she finished fourth in the sport's Olympic debut. After swimming nearly a mile to the Sydney Opera House, then biking 24.8 miles and running 6.2 through the nearby Botanical Gardens, Zeiger finished fourth, just 17 seconds shy of a medal.

At the time, Zeiger was living in Baltimore and doing her doctoral work in genetic epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health. She completed her Ph.D. in January 2001. A year later, she married Mark Shenk. Last September, they moved to Boulder.

Zeiger, who will turn 34 in May, is working part-time at the University of Colorado's Institute for Behavioral Genetics, analyzing data and writing summaries on conduct disorders and substance abuse among adolescents. She has spent considerable time analyzing and correcting her own problems.

"After the 2002 Ironman, I backed off of running for six months because of a lower back problem," said Zeiger, a 5-foot-5, 115-pound dynamo. "I've seen more physical therapists than I can count. I had to change my running and cycling biomechanics. My running form was abysmal, but it's improved."

Zeiger spoke from Honolulu, where she's preparing for an International Triathlon Union race that will be conducted a week from today. The top American finisher will earn an Olympic berth in Athens, Greece. Another berth will go to the top American in the May 8 world championships in Madeira, Portugal. The third spot will be determined by a convoluted points system.

Ranked fourth among U.S. women, she is coming off a second-place finish in the Pan American championships last month.

Like Zeiger, Amanda Pagon needs a big finish in Hawaii or Portugal to punch a ticket to Athens.

Pagon is more familiar to some Baltimoreans as Amanda White, an invincible distance runner for Dulaney High in the early 1990s. She ran and swam for Stanford, then took up the triathlon. She stands seventh among American women in the world rankings, but is No. 1 in at least one category.

Pagon and her husband, Garrett, have two sons, Blake, 5, and Chase, 2.

"There's only one other American in the rankings who has a child, and I'm pretty sure she only has one," Pagon said. "There were some really nice days this past winter when I blew off a bike ride to take the boys to the park. I'm not reaching my potential, but when we made the decision to have children, we put family before the triathlon. I'm OK with that."

Pagon, 28, spoke as she was packing up her house in Prince George's County for an upcoming move to northern Virginia. She has a degree in human biology, and soon will be doing graduate work in a health field of some kind.

Phelps file

Michael Phelps is headed to New York, where the winner of the 74th annual James E. Sullivan Award will be announced Tuesday at the New York Athletic Club.

The award is given by the Amateur Athletic Union. Phelps is a professional, but the AAU changed its criteria when the Olympic movement dropped its amateur code.

The other finalists: LeBron James, who was playing high school basketball at the start of last year; Olympic speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno; Connecticut basketball player Diana Taurasi; and Philippa Raschker, who excels in masters track and field.

The 18-year-old from the North Baltimore Aquatic Club is attempting to become the first male swimmer to win the Sullivan Award since John Naber was recognized for his 1977 exploits.

Phelps has 86 days until the Olympic trials in Long Beach, Calif., and he will probably keep people guessing about his Olympic program until then. After that, it's a question of when, not if, he moves to Ann Arbor, Mich., as post-Athens obligations might keep Phelps from enrolling at the University of Michigan before 2005.

He'll settle there to continue his relationship with Bob Bowman, who will take over as the Wolverines' coach in the fall.

Games at a glance

When: Aug. 13-29

Where: Athens, Greece

Sports: 28

Countries: 202

Athletes: 10,500

Events: 296


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