Austin Hindman, 2016 Junior World triathlon champion, is among six men making up the initial roster for USA Triathlon’s Project Podium elite development program based in Tempe.
The athletes will train under coach Parker Spencer and attend Arizona State with a goal of producing Olympic triathlon medal contenders for the 2024 (Paris) and 2028 (Los Angeles) games.
“We have some guys with a legitimate chance of making the 2020 (Tokyo) team,” Spencer said. “But this is all about their development and thinking very long term about what we have to do if we’re talking seriously about an Olympic medal.”
Four of the triathletes including Hindman are transferring to ASU from other colleges, where they were competing as runners or swimmers. They are training as professionals and receiving scholarship funds and stipends based on performance from USA Triathlon.
Cliff English, ASU women’s triathlon coach, is program director. Rocky Harris, former ASU athletic chief of staff, is USA Triathlon chief executive officer.
“ASU is treating us as if we’re an NCAA sport and giving us the same resources other athletes are getting,” said Spencer, hired June 22 after previously working as director of endurance programs at Liberty University. “There’s lot of opportunity for ideal training and with everything ASU brings to the table we’re taking care of these guys athletically and for their entire adult life with a degree.”
Hindman competed in cross country and indoor track as a freshman at Missouri after winning nine state high school titles. He won the 2016 World Junior triathlon title in Cozumel, Mexico, then was 29th at 2017 Junior Worlds.
Spencer said Hindman was at the top of his recruiting list: “I needed to get the right guys into this program to start things off on the right foot and give legitimacy to what we are trying to accomplish.”
Joining Hindman are Chase McQueen (transfer from Arizona), Duncan Reid (Oberlin College), Erik Armes (Auburn) and freshmen Luis Ortiz and Nick Johnson.
McQueen was 12th at 2017 Junior Worlds, Reid was third at this year’s USA Triathlon U-23 Championships and Ortiz was second and Johnson 15th at last week’s Junior Elite National Championships.
Project Podium will eventually have 12-16 athletes, half college-aged and half post-collegiate males or females.