Boston College Olympians Joe Maloy ’08 M.S.’10, Annie Haeger ’12 and Briana Provancha ’12 took some time from their preparations for the Summer Olympics to answer a few questions.
Q: Joe, give us an overview of the triathlon at Rio: Have you had a chance to go over the course?
Maloy: I had the chance to compete on the actual Olympic course last summer in a “test event.” It was an opportunity for the local organizers to practice setting the course and for the athletes to have a first-go at racing in Rio. It will be a challenging course: a choppy ocean swim, a hilly bike, and a hot run.
Q: What about the competition – is there a generally acknowledged “favorite” to win the event?
Maloy: All three medalists from London 2012 will be on the starting line in Rio. I’m sure there is a favorite, but it depends on whom you ask. The last I checked, we all start the race at the same time. The Olympic Triathlon is a one-day competition, and an opportunity like that rewards the athlete who is most prepared for that slice of time. Past accomplishments and future aspirations are irrelevant.
Q: The triathlon doesn’t take place until near the end of the Games [Aug. 18]. Will you be able to keep yourself fit and ready, but still be able to experience being at the Olympics?
Maloy: I’ve decided to skip the opening ceremonies and head down to Rio on Aug. 12. While I’m disappointed to be missing the first week of the Games, this plan will ensure I bring my best self to the starting line on the 18th. I think being fully present and enjoying the moment is a big key to excellent performance in anything. I plan to enjoy all aspects of the experience – the build-up, the race, and the closing ceremonies – with my family, friends and teammates.
Q: So you’ll have a cheering section there?
Maloy: Yes! My brother John (BC ’11) comes to all of my big races. He’ll be in Rio with his girlfriend, my parents (Joe and Mary), my grandmom (Barbara Monahan), and a pretty large contingent of extended family and friends.
Q: Trying to get to the Olympics certainly isn’t a casual decision. What factors were key in deciding to go for it?
Maloy: Obviously, the chance to compete in the Olympic Games is an incredible opportunity. That opportunity, though, is a byproduct of the decision-making process that’s set my path to Rio. It’s never been an “Olympics-or-bust” journey. This process has, and will continue to be, about doing things that challenge me and inspire others to be a little bit better every day.
Q: Briana and Annie, sailing is probably not as familiar an Olympic event as gymnastics or track and field. Tell us about the format.
Haeger: Briana and I will be competing together in the women’s 470 class. The boat is 4.7 meters long and is known as the double-handed women’s boat. I am in the back of the boat steering and Briana is in the front of the boat. My job requires more finesse while Briana’s is more athletic and forceful.
Sailboat racing is similar to NASCAR: There is a racetrack that you must sail around as quickly as possible. Scoring is based on your place in the race. If you finish first, you receive one point; second, two points and so on. In the Olympics there are 10 races with a final race, called a medal race. The top 10 teams after the series compete on a smaller race course where the points are doubled and the race cannot be thrown out. Whoever has the lowest amount of points after the medal race is complete wins.
Q: What went into your decision to try for the Olympics?
Provancha: We actually decided we wanted to pursue an Olympic campaign while on the sailing team together at Boston College. We began a four-year effort the following fall after graduation.
Haeger: Both Briana and I have always wanted to go the Olympics, so it was an easy transition once we graduated from BC. In order to qualify, we participated in the US Olympic trials, which included two regattas: the 470 Worlds in San Isidro, Argentina, and the European Championship in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. With our competition, it was a who-beat-who system and we were lucky enough to qualify.
Q: You were able to spend some time in Rio recently. Do you feel you have a good sense of the course?
Haeger: With sailing, it is crucial to get down to the venue early. Unlike other sports that have a set field with boundaries, sailors have to deal with Mother Nature: the current and weather patterns that come through during competition. Rio is very challenging as a venue. There are six different race courses that we could be sailing on and each one is different. Four of the courses are inside while the remaining two are outside in big breezes and waves. The current is very strong, making it even more challenging.
Q: Even though you’ll be focusing on the sailing competition, do you look forward to experiencing other aspects of the Games?
Provancha: This Olympics will be a special one as it’s the first Olympics in a while where the sailors get to stay in the main village. I am definitely looking forward to meeting all the other athletes. The Olympics brings people together from different cultures and sports and to be able to interact with those amazing athletes will definitely be a highlight of this experience for me.
Haeger: One thing I am looking forward to is to walk into the cafeteria and run into other athletes! Our event finishes on the 18th, so we will have some time to enjoy the other sports. Not sure what our plan will be, but I will try to see as many as possible.
Q: Will you have any supporters down there?
Provancha: I have a great support system coming down to Rio. My mom, dad, boyfriend, sister and her boyfriend will all be cheering me on.
Haeger: I am going to have a big cheering section – and probably the most obnoxious! There’ll be my entire immediate family, including my two brothers and parents, two aunts, two uncles and two cousins. They are not a quiet crowd, so if you see people wearing Team Haeger/Provancha gear and yelling at the top of their lungs, chances are it will be them.
—Office of News & Public Affairs