Ocean City’s Renee Tomlin Wins Triathlon in Cuba and Eyes Olympics

first_imgOcean City native Renee Tomlin defeats an international field to win a sprint triathlon Jan. 24 in Havana, Cuba. Photo credit: Calixto N. Llanes/Juventud Rebelde (CUBA) Ocean City native Renee Tomlin defeats an international field to win a sprint triathlon Jan. 24 in Havana, Cuba. Photo credit: Calixto N. Llanes/Juventud Rebelde (CUBA)A former Ocean City High School track star was among the first American athletes to compete in Cuba in 50 years.Renee Tomlin, 26, won the Habana CAMTRI Sprint Triathlon American Cup on Jan. 24. She completed the 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike and 5-kilometer run 1:04.22.The competition in Havana was the first to include elite U.S. athletes since President Barack Obama ordered the restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba in December 2014.Tomlin is a 2006 graduate of Ocean City High School, 2010 graduate of Georgetown University and former member of the Ocean City Beach Patrol. She spent much of her youth as a member of the Ocean City C-Cerpants Swim Club and Atlantic City Aquatic Club.“The opportunity to be an ambassador of the U.S. was one of the coolest experiences of my life, athletically and historically,” Tomlin said._____Sign up for free daily news updates from Ocean City._____She said that only a day after she read of the end of the 50-year embargo, her coach called to say that she and her teammates had an opportunity to compete in the historic race.Renee Tomlin (center) with USA Triathlon teammates and Cuban hosts during an ITU event in Havana, Cuba on Jan. 24, 2015.Tomlin said the Cuban people were “extremely warm and receptive,” and the Cuban athletes interacted with the Americans in a “completely natural and friendly” way. Since the competition, athletes have continued to correspond via social media.The Americans stayed at a resort, and Tomlin said the triathlon course was flat and competitor-friendly.For the 26-year-old Tomlin, the race was part of a dream to represent the U.S. in triathlon in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.After graduating from Georgetown and continuing her running career with New Jersey-New York Track Club, Tomlin competed in the 1,500-meter run at the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., in June 2012, finishing ninth in a semifinal heat.Tomlin continued to compete as a runner, racing in Europe for the U.S. But after another year, she said she was ready to transition away from athletics and seek a fellowship or full-time work. She had completed a master’s degree in linguistics at Georgetown in 2013.“But in the back of my mind, I still had unfinished business,” Tomlin said.A casual call to a USA Triathlon recruiter she had first met in college led to a visit to the College Recruitment Program facility in Scottsdale, Ariz. Tomlin met coaches in a one-year grant program that helps groom athletes for international competition.“It was one of those moments when you realize this is the last door to open in athletics,” Tomlin said. “It’s now or never.”Tomlin trains with two other women and four men in the USA Triathlon CRP Program. Their ultimate goal is to earn enough qualifier points in a series of International Triathlon Union (ITU) events to earn a spot on the U.S. team that will compete in the 2016 Olympic Games.Tomlin said her victory in Cuba was part of the ITU “Continental Cup” series, which she characterized as “introductory level” on the world circuit. She’ll ultimately compete in higher levels and at the longer Olympic triathlon distances: 1.5-kilometer swim (.93 miles), 40-kilometer bike (24.8 miles) and 10-kilometer run (6.2 miles).She said the U.S. has a pair of exceptional triathletes in Gwen Jorgensen and Sarah True. But she said the third spot on an Olympic team could be anybody’s.“I’m pretty fired up about it,” Tomlin said.Tomlin said having a foundation as a youth swimmer has been an advantage, and she said coaches like Ocean City High School’s Bob “Billy Bob” Cornell and Sid Cassidy were instrumental in her early training. She said Cassidy, a former Atlantic City Aquatic Club coach and OCBP legend, introduced her to open-water swimming.Working the Ocean City Beach Patrol and competing in run-swim events, surf dashes and working with surf boats helped give her “a strength and athleticism that a single sport can’t give you.”Ocean City High School track and cross-country coaches Kevin Greene, Trish Hopson and Bill Moreland — as they had with so many other runners — helped turn Tomlin into a state champion.  She won a state title in the 800 meters as a sophomore and added three more state titles (in the 800 or 1,600) by the time she graduated.Former champion runner Paul Minehan was another influence, Tomlin said. She ran with Minehan’s daughters and fellow state champion Brittany Sedberry.“I probably wouldn’t have even run if those guys weren’t there to encourage me to go for it,” Tomlin said. “It’s been a funny little road. You don’t realize it’s happening, and next thing you know you’re off to Cuba.”She said everybody at the Ocean City Community Center has always welcomed her when she’s in town and visiting the pool or fitness center.“It’s just nice having a good hometown support system,” she said.Tomlin was flying overseas Sunday to compete with USA Triathlon teammates in events in New Zealand and Australia.Read more:American Triathletes Excel in Historic Cuba DebutSee 2014 Rankings in the ITU World Triathlon Serieslast_img

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