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Wildwood Crest's Maloy qualifies for U.S. Olympic Triathlon team

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Joe Maloy left his coaching position at Boston College six years ago in hopes of becoming a world-class triathlete.

“I wanted to go to the Olympics,” Maloy said Saturday morning in a phone interview from Japan. “A lot of people thought I was crazy, and I probably am. But I knew if I didn’t pursue it then, the opportunity wouldn’t come again.”

No one thinks he’s crazy now.

Maloy is going to the Olympics.

The 30-year-old Wildwood Crest native was the top U.S. finisher Saturday morning at ITU World Triathlon Yokohama in Japan, placing 11th overall in 1 hour, 47 minutes, 16 seconds. As the top-ranked competitor in the USA Triathlon Objective Rankings System, the 30-year-old guaranteed his nomination to the U.S. men’s triathlon team that will compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

All qualifications and nominations to the team still have to be officially approved by the U.S. Olympic Committee, but that is a mere formality, according to USA Triathlon. Maloy, a Wildwood Catholic High School graduate, is essentially assured of being one of the three Americans competing in the men’s race on Aug. 18 at Copacabana Beach.

“It’s an incredible feeling,” Maloy said. “Honestly, I’m kind of speechless. I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet, but it’s very exciting. This has been a dream of mine for a long time.”

Maloy entered the race as the top-ranked American in the rankings system and 23rd overall in the world. Because Yokohama was the final qualifying race for the Olympics, he needed only to finish among the top Americans to earn one of the three U.S. spots.

“I was talking to my brother (John) the other day, and I was feeling really nervous about the race,” Maloy said. “It had nothing to do with my preparation, but it was just the idea of being an Olympian was so close to finally happening.

“It was a situation where there were six of us from the U.S. in the race. Three were going to make the Olympic team and three were going to miss the cut. I knew that making or missing the cut wouldn’t define me as a person, but it would be a lot more fun to make it.”

In addition to Maloy, Greg Billington and Ben Kanute also met the qualifying standards to make the team.

Ocean City native Renee Tomlin fell short in her bid to make the U.S. women’s team Saturday. Tomlin, an Ocean City High School graduate, needed to place in the top three in Japan to earn a spot and finished 26th.

There is still one more spot that has to be filled on the women’s team, but Tomlin does not have enough points in the rankings system to earn it, according to USA Triathlon.

Maloy earned his berth with a solid, consistent performance in Saturday’s race, which consisted of a 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike and 10K run.

Maloy, who was a swimmer and runner at Wildwood Catholic and also swam for Boston College, was among the leaders out of the water and was in the lead pack of 40 to 50 competitors after the bike. He closed with a strong run and finished just 49 seconds behind winner Mario Mola of Spain.

“I knew that I basically just had to maintain my position (as one of the top-ranked competitors) in the race and I’d be on the Olympic team,” Maloy said. “But a lot can happen in a two-hour race. It’s not like you’re in your own lane in a pool and swimming for two minutes. You can’t take anything for granted.”

Strong winds on Saturday in Japan made the race especially challenging. The swim was conducted in choppy waters, slowing a lot of of the competitors.

Maloy relied on his background as a standout open-water swimmer for the Wildwood Crest Beach Patrol for six summers.

“It was pretty rough today,” Maloy said with a laugh. “But it’s nothing like what the Atlantic (Ocean) can throw at you.”

Maloy, who is based in San Diego, is planning on celebrating his achievement at home, however.

He is scheduled to spend about a week in Wildwood Crest starting Monday before beginning his preparations for the Olympics. He is going to be training at altitude in Flagstaff, Arizona, before heading back to San Diego to work with coach Paulo Sousa.

But first, he wants to spend time with friends and family.

“Wildwood Crest will also be home to me,” he said. “I can’t wait to be back there.”

Contact: 609-272-7201

Twitter @PressACWeinberg

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Member of The Press sports staff since 1986, starting my 27th season as The Press Eagles' beat writer. Also cover boxing, MMA, golf, high school sports and everything else.

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