Lawrence's Marcel Vifian was named Wednesday to the U.S. National Resident Triathlon Team.
If this were an Olympic year, Marcel Vifian would be a full-fledged, card-carrying United States Olympian.
It's not, however, so Vifian will have to settle for the next best thing.
"My goal is to become an Olympic athlete," Vifian, a 27-year-old Lawrence resident and national-caliber triathlete, said Thursday. "That's still my goal. What I'm doing brings me a large step closer to it."
Vifian, who turns 28 next Monday, was named Wednesday to the U.S. National Resident Triathlon Team. Only three men and three women make the squad, which will train for six months in Colorado Springs, Colo., at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. The triathlon will become an official Olympic sport at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia.
"Basically, if this were an Olympic year, we'd be the U.S. Olympic team," Vifian said. "Then the call I got (Wednesday) would have been a much more exciting call. But it's still exciting. We're considered the United States' top hopes for the World Championships."
In two weeks Vifian will leave for Colorado Springs, where he'll follow a strict training regimen and compete in triathlons, grueling races that combine running, swimming and cycling.
"They give you a strategy," Vifian said. "There are only four or five races you have to race in, but it's in your best interest to do those races they fly you to."
Vifian hopes to qualify for the Nov. 16 World Championships in Perth, Australia. To qualify, Vifian would have to rank in the top 50 internationally and top five in the U.S.
"Right now, I think I'm second in the point standings for the World Championships in the U.S., but I don't think I'm in the top 50 internationally," Vifian said. "I've only done one race out of 12. I have to do quite a few more to catch up."
Wednesday's phone call didn't come totally out of the blue. Vifian knew there was an opening, and the U.S. team's coach notified Vifian he was in the running.
"I knew I was being considered, but I had no idea I was on the short list," Vifian said. "It could have been a lot of other guys. They called a lot of people. It was known there would be a spot on the team, but I didn't expect to be on it. I had my own schedule made. Now I'll have to do some shuffling and reshuffling, but that's OK."
Vifian won't have to reschedule his appearance in next Sunday's LMH Triathlon at Lone Star Lake. Vifian, a native Californian who moved to Lawrence from Colorado back in 1995, wouldn't dare miss his homecourse race.
"It's huge. It's unreal," Vifian said of the LMH Triathlon. "It's the only big race in the U.S. at that time of year, and it's attracting pros from both coasts. It's growing exponentially, and it's one of the very best races I've competed in. I've been in probably 150 of these things, and it's definitely one of the best."
Although Vifian has attracted product sponsors in Cannondale (bike), MLO (beverage), PowerBar, Oakley (eyewear) and Time (bike shoes and pedals), he's still seeking financial sponsors.
By making the U.S. National Resident Team, he's guaranteed only food, housing and training in Colorado Springs.
"That's the base. You live and train there," Vifian said. "Essentially, you spend your day on the complex and at night go back home to sleep. It's like a work day. They provide a lot, but I'm still in need of some financial support."
He has had plenty of other support from Kent Dobbins and his wife, Liz, who invited him to Lawrence from Colorado.
"If it weren't for Kent and Liz, I wouldn't have made it this far," Vifian said. "They invited me here and gave me a break, if you will, letting me live in their home and train before the U.S. Olympic Training Center finally decided it was their turn. I really wouldn't be here doing this if not for them."