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Vol. LXII, No. 33
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
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(Photo courtesy of USA Triathlon)

TRANSITION PLAN: Princeton High alum Andy Potts makes the transition from the swim to the bike in a race earlier in his career as a pro triathlete. Potts, who competed in the 2004 Summer Olympics, was named as an alternate for the U.S. team for the Beijing Games. Potts, 31, had hoped for more after a superb 2007 campaign which saw him win the Pan American games triathlon and the Ironman 70.3 mile world championship (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride, 13.1-mile run). Those results led to Potts being named as USA Triathlon Triathlete of the Year for the second straight year.

Triathlete Potts in Role as Alternate for U.S. Team but PHS Alum Still Harbors Olympic Dreams

Bill Alden

Andy Potts found himself at a crossroad after competing in the triathlon at the 2004 Summer Olympics.

In the wake of finishing 22nd in the event, the 1995 Princeton High alum had a decision to make.

“I was still learning and improving,” said Potts, who was a swim star at the University of Michigan after graduating from PHS.

“The question was could I make it a viable occupation; could I make a living doing this. I needed more polish; I had to become stronger in the bike and the running.”

At the same time he was pondering that question, his wife, Lisa, was diagnosed with cancer.

Ironically, Lisa’s illness helped make Potts’ decision easier. “It made me realize there is no time like the present,” recalled Potts, 31, who is now based in Colorado Springs, Colo. “If you have an opportunity in front of you, then you should pursue it. You need to live life on your own terms.”

With the couple forming “Team Potts” to support each other, Potts achieved his goal of becoming a top pro triathlete.

In 2006, Potts had six top-five finishes on the way to being named the USA Triathlon Triathlete of the Year.

He outdid himself one year later, winning the Pan American games triathlon and the Ironman 70.3 mile world championship (1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride, 13.1-mile run) on the way to another USA Triathlon Triathlete of the year award. Lisa, meanwhile, saw her cancer go into remission and was healthy enough to give birth to a son, Boston.

This year, Potts’ goal was to return to the Olympics and challenge for a medal in the event, which features a 1,500-meter swim, a 40-kilometer bike ride, and a 10-kilometer run.

Unfortunately, Team Potts hit a roadblock this June as Potts just missed qualifying for the U.S. team, getting named as an alternate after the three-event selection process.

As the Beijing Games approached, Potts was again questioning his future direction.

“I was shocked, surprised, and disappointed,” said Potts. “It is hard to leave your dreams to sports. I had good days at the last two trials but I didn’t have that great day. It took me a little time after the trials to decide what I wanted to do. I decided to make the Toyota Cup my goal which involves five different races.”

Potts made the most of his time after the 2004 Athens Games as he relentlessly pursued his goal to become a top pro.

“I sat down with my coach [Mike Doane] after Athens and he said I think you can be really good,” recalled Potts.

“He helped me believe in myself; he revamped everything. He looked at my race; since 60 percent is on the bike, I needed to become a stronger cyclist. Before I was spending 7-8 hours a week on the bike at 20-25 mph; I went up to 14-15 hours (going from 200 miles a week to over 300), that was a big difference. He also helped me on training my mind and body to become a complete triathlete.”

That work paved the way for Potts’ breakthroughs in 2006 and then his championship efforts the next year.

For Potts, 2007 will always be a memorable year. “It was a really special week being at the Pan Am games,” said Potts.

“You are racing for more than yourself and your family. I always take pride in racing for the U.S.A.; I thought I could have a great day and medal and I ended up winning. The world title was big time; being a world champion is something no one can take way from you. I was proud of my results in 2007, but having Boston was the highlight.”

Coming into 2008, Potts was poised for a strong run at Olympic glory. “Before I was the strong swimmer who would have an OK bike and a good run,” said Potts.

“I started winning races in different ways; there was a transformation. I won some races in the bike; I won some on the run. I took that added confidence into 2008.”

While Potts’ confidence was hurt by his failure to make the Olympics, he learned some valuable lessons in the process.

“Sports is capricious, you can’t let your guard down,” asserted Potts. “The biggest lesson was to expect the unexpected in terms of my competition and their tactics. I thought things would play out as usual and that wasn’t the case. You don’t know what’s going to happen when world class athletes are involved.”

With the men’s final slated for August 19, there was still an outside shot that Potts could go to China if one of the athletes on the U.S. team is unable to compete.

“I’m still on call; I’m still working hard,” added Potts, who was planning to race this weekend in New Hampshire.

“I’m in great shape. I can be called 48 hours before the race. If that happens, I’ll run off the plane and do it. It would be a once in a lifetime opportunity and I wouldn’t pass it up. I wouldn’t have a problem with jet lag. In a situation like that, the adrenaline would take over.”

While it is unlikely that Potts will get the call to head to Beijing, his Olympic dreams are far from dead.

“I’m looking beyond 2012 and London,” maintained Potts. “I will evaluate things in 2013 when I am 36. I have friends who are competing well at 37, 38, so I may keep going. I’m making a living at this.”

And living everyday to the fullest in the process.

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