CHICAGO -- Elite athletes, paratriathletes and event partners gathered Wednesday at the Media Center for the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final pre-race press conference.
On being back in the U.S.
"The main thing Jamie [Turner, her coach] has taught me is that [living abroad most of the year] is not a sacrifice, it's an investment in our future. In 2012 I sat down after the London Olympics with Patrick, my husband, and we researched different training environments and found Jamie Turner and the Wollongong Wizards. We leave Dec. 31, and this was my first week back on U.S. soil all year. It's good to be back."
On qualifying for Rio
"I was extremely nervous at the Rio Test Event. It was something I've been working toward since London and at the beginning of this year we sat down and knew this was going to be the Olympic Trials for Team USA and I said to Jamie and Pat that if I don't do anything except qualify for the Olympics it will be a successful year in my eyes. I think they laughed at me a little bit because they know how competitive I am."
On his early career
"2003 was a very important year winning the U23 world title. That made me think I could do well with a career in the sport. My [heart problem] took me out of the sport for a year and a half. Luckily it was nothing serious and I could keep going and have the career that I'm very proud of."
On potentially becoming the first man to win five ITU world titles
"It's an honor to win four world titles and seeing all my old rivals being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Now I'm seeking my fifth world title, and I take this race as the biggest race of the year. A lot of guys are really strong. It has been a great year so far."
"It's pretty amazing. Sometimes we just focus on training and trying to do our best and not really worry about all this. Being part of history already and having a chance to be the only one to win five titles and three in a row is amazing. I have to be happy and proud of my career."
On the course difficulty
"When you look at the course profile it doesn't look any different than the flat courses, but it does lap after lap make a big difference at the end of the bike or the beginning of the run and of course for the rest of the run."
On racing on a home course
"When it was announced a few years ago that the World Championships were going to be in Chicago, it was like Christmas in July. Here in my own backyard, I get to swim in the lake I swim in every week, I get to bike and run with the epic skyline of Chicago among some of the greatest athletes in the world. Being here from Chicago and having my local family and friends and organizations like Dare2tri cheering on the sidelines, it's going to be amazing."
On returning to paratriathlon after becoming a mother
Last time I competed at ITU Chicago, I was four and a half months pregnant -- that was last July. I gave birth to my on Dallas Patrick on Nov. 25 of last year, so he's 9.5 months handsome. It hasn't been an easy road back, and if any of you are mothers out there, you know that your life changes, your body changes, and bouncing back is not easy. I've had this dream, I've had this goal, I've had this whole team of support on the road to Rio and I've seen my times improve from race to race and week to week. All of us are racing to win. I'd love to be back at the top of that podium, and I'm going to give it my best shot.
On racing in Chicago
It's just nice to be here as a part of this amazing field, racing with world-class athletes and 1,000 U.S. athletes. I'm hoping I can qualify for [the Paralympic Games]. This weekend is more important right now. I think I'm prepared very well for it. I'm ready for a big event. My competition is tough, but I'll do my best out there and I'm honored to be a part of it.
On competing with a guide
To have this amazing opportunity and to have Michellie as my guide is just incredible. She's always pushing me. It's interesting, since I competed as an individual athlete where you only have yourself to be accountable. But when you're with somebody of Michellie Jones' caliber, you certainly don't want to let her down. She's very good about pushing the bar at every session. I'm learning a lot.
On where her motivation comes from
I'm here 100 percent for Katie. Katie has an amazing story. She only started racing the paratri in February. ... For us, our journey is to try to make it to Rio. Personally, it's so cool to be able to help somebody else's journey because I've been there, and to give something back to this sport is always very exciting. That's where my motivation comes from: I get to help Katie with her dreams. I'll do everything in my power, to make sure she can walk away from any race we do together and feel 100 percent satisfied.
On the transformation from a swimmer to triathlete
It's not been the easiest transition from being a swimmer, you're in the pool and just doing laps and laps, and the issues of shin splints and other injuries that come with that. I did two Paralympic cycles of swimming and I loved it -- I still love it. I used to race for a minute; now I race for an hour and 10 nearly. Big difference. With the help of British Triathlon and the two girls I race with, my biking has come on, my running has come on, and they've pushed me the whole way. When I'm in my country racing the national champs, I'm racing the best in the world.
Rob Urbach, USA Triathlon CEO
On the U.S. hosting the Grand Final in Chicago
"This will be our fourth consecutive WTS event. We started this journey in 2012 with two races in San Diego. We upgraded to Chicago last year, and we're thrilled to bring the triathlon world and arguably one of the greatest sporting events to the great city of Chicago. There is going to be a lot of hard and passionate racing out there for the Grand Final. It's going to be a big, big day, not just for the U.S., but for the other countries here racing with Olympic qualification on the line."
On the importance of sponsors
"We're looking forward to having everyone reach their potential during racing this weekend -- not just for our athletes, but as well as for our sponsors. We really try to support all the corporations that support triathlon, because it enables us to invest in this sport and create opportunities for triathletes to expand and grow throughout the world."
George Bauernfeind, BP, Head of U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Programs
On supporting Olympic and Paralympic dreams
"BP has been a fabric of Chicagoland community for over 100 years. This is our third largest employee base. We're really excited about the opportunity to participate in the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final Chicago, as our second year in the row. It's a great way to engage various folks in the community. It allows us to connect and support athletes at all various levels and especially our Team USA athletes as they're on their journey to Rio. We're particularly proud to support paratriathlon as it's making its way into the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games for the first time."
Keri Serota, Dare2tri Executive Director
On showing the world what people with disabilities can do
"Dare2tri is thrilled to welcome the world to Chicago -- our home court, our backyard. We're so appreciative of all the support that Columbia Threadneedle, BP and USA Triathlon have shown us. We're really excited to work with ITU to ensure that everything for para athletes has been thought through to showcase the accessibility of our city and ensure that all the para athletes from the elite to the open to those participating in the relay have an amazing experience that showcases their abilities. We want to truly show Chicago, the country and the world what people with disabilities can do."
Leslie Walstrom, Columbia Threadneedle, Head of U.S. Marketing
On being the ITU World Triathlon Chicago Global Partner
"I'm honored on behalf of Columbia Threadneedle Investments to be the person who gets to say how thrilled we are to be a part of this event. It's a great way for us to show our global capabilities and support a great global organization. It's a true honor for us to be a financial services partner."
On supporting local paratriathletes
"We are so excited for a second year to sponsor Dare2tri. We are donating 50 race entries for elite and amateur paratriathletes, and we're really proud to see that logo on the back of their jerseys."
Photo Credit: Rich Cruse