January 8th, 2003

A USA Triathlon representative visited Great River Medical Center and other local facilities last month to assess the hospital and communities’ ability to serve as one of 10 regional training sites for U.S Triathlon. The results of this visit were very encouraging. If selected, Great River Medical Center will begin working with Olympic-hopeful and other triathletes by summer 2004.

“Great River Medical Center definitely provides a very good fit for what we are looking for,” said Libby Burrell, National Team Program and High Performance Director for USA Triathlon, the governing body for the multi-sports of triathlon and duathlon in the United States. USA Triathlon’s main offices are located in Colorado Springs, Colo., near the U.S. Olympic Training Center. They also have offices at the USA Triathlon National Training Center in Clermont, Fla.

“The hospital is a beautiful facility with a very well-equipped gym, which is staffed by highly trained sports-fitness personnel, and features a wide range of specialties on its medical staff,” Burrell said. “But the thing that really impresses me is the enthusiasm and commitment of the hospital and community leaders.”

Triathlon is an endurance race combining three consecutive events. The events and Olympic distances are swimming (0.9 miles), biking (24.8 miles) and running (6.2 miles). Triathlon made its Olympic debut at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia.

As a regional training center, Great River Medical Center would receive groups of approximately 15 athletes at a time. Each group would spend four to five weeks in the area. Ideally, the athletes will stay with host families during their visit. Athletes will train in the Health Fitness Center gym at the hospital’s Center for Rehabilitation and work with staff throughout the health system. Athletes also may use the swimming and running facilities at Burlington Community School District, Southeastern Community College, and YMCA and YWCA.

The effort to designate Great River Medical Center as an USA Triathlon Regional Training Center has been spearheaded by George Van Hagan, a physical therapy assistant at the hospital and a competitive triathlete.

“This is something we’ve been working on since 1996, and it’s very gratifying to get to this point,” Van Hagan said. “Our staff will not only have the opportunity to work with world-class athletes, but we also will help USA Triathlon identify regional athletes who have Olympic potential.”

As a regional training site, USA Triathlon will work with Great River Medical Center to conduct seminars on triathlon training and coaching clinics for those interested in working with triathletes. USA Triathlon already has committed to conducting a coaching clinic at the hospital in May 2003. More information about this clinic will be available in the coming months.

“The designation brings with it a significant educational commitment, and that’s a very exciting aspect,” Van Hagan said. “We will conduct public seminars and clinics not only on triathlon training and its individual components (swimming, biking and running), but also on general fitness and health. The goal is to help improve the overall health of the general population as well as identify future Olympic-caliber athletes.”

“In the next couple months, I will make recommendations to USA Triathlon on the training sites,” Burrell said. “I will propose that Great River Medical Center serve as the Midwest Regional Training Center. If this is approved, things will happen pretty quickly. There are just a few minor pieces of equipment we would ask the hospital to add, and then we will begin training staff and working out schedules. By next summer, we’ll be well on our way to identifying and training the Olympic Triathlon Team for the 2008 Summer Games.”