Joe Maloy III hopes to catch a break during the Rio Olympics this week.
The men's triathlon takes place Thursday at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. Maloy, a 30-year-old Wildwood Crest native and Wildwood Catholic High School graduate, will be among 55 athletes competing in the 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike and 10K run.
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The swim leg will be conducted in the Atlantic Ocean, which Maloy knows well. He basically grew up on the beach at Wildwood Crest and spent six years (2003-08) as a member of the Wildwood Crest Beach Patrol.
And as anyone who has ever watched a lifeguard race knows, riding a wave at the end of a swim can often propel an athletes past his or her rivals.
"I think the swim favors me because it's not a traditional, fast course," Maloy said Thursday from San Diego. "It's a beach start, and we'll be swimming in choppy water. The beach there is not known for big waves, but all I need is a two- or three-foot swell. If I see one, I'll definitely try to take advantage of it because I'm really good at bodysurfing."
Maloy is very familiar with the entire course, having participated in a race there last year. He placed 16th in the Rio Test Event on Aug. 2, 2015, finishing in 1 hour, 50 minutes, 36 seconds. He was just two minutes behind winner Javier Gomez Noya of Spain. Gomez, who won the silver medal at the 2012 Olympics in London, will not compete in the Olympics because of a broken elbow.
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"It's a very difficult course," Maloy said. "The swim is in the ocean, and the bike course is both flat and hilly. The run is flat, but it's going to be hot and humid, and there's not much shade on the course. If you have a weakness, it will get exposed."
Preparations for the race took place in San Diego and in Flagstaff, Arizona, where he trained at altitude for a few weeks under the guidance of coach Paolo Sousa.
Maloy did not fly to Brazil until Friday, opting to skip the Olympics opening ceremony.
"On a plane to Rio," Maloy posted on Twitter. "I didn't imagine having the middle seat, but the other parts are dreams come true."
Maloy, Sousa and fellow Olympian Greg Billington, who also trains in San Diego with Sousa's "Triathlon Squad," opted to wait as a matter of convenience and comfort.
Participating in the opening ceremony Aug. 5 would have meant being in Rio for almost two weeks before his event. And the logistics of the triathlon course would have made it difficult to train without distraction.
"It would have been nice to be there for the opening ceremony, but my coach and I decided that it was best to stay here as long as possible and keep training in this environment," Maloy said. "I've been watching the Olympics nonstop on TV, though. I'm just in awe of what those athletes have been able to achieve."
He was particularly impressed with the U.S. swimming contingent, having swam at both Wildwood Catholic and Boston College.
Maloy also swam competitively for the Wildwood Crest Beach Patrol and won the Cape May Superathlon - a running, rowing, swimming event - in 2007.
"Having (swam competitively), you almost have a higher level of respect for Michael Phelps and everyone else," Maloy said. "You know how hard they have to work to reach their goals, and you appreciate it in a different way. Seeing all the athletes excelling and achieving their dreams has been very inspiring."
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Maloy decided to try and achieve the Olympic dream six years ago.
After experiencing some success in amateur races, he decided to quit his job as an assistant swimming coach at Boston College and devote himself to becoming a professional triathlete.
He moved to Philadelphia and trained with top cyclists to improve that aspect of his sport. In 2012, he relocated to San Diego, which is a triathlon hotbed.
"Joe has improved quite a lot," Sousa said in May. "When he started training out here, he was able to be competitive at the lowest level of Olympic-distance triathlon racing and was mostly surviving on his natural abilities. In the last four years, we were able to slowly develop him into a competitor at the world level.
"Joe is a very well-rounded athlete, but his main strength is a huge belief in what's possible and what he can achieve. Joe is a never-say-die, shooting-for-the-stars guy, but he always goes about things in a realistic, purposeful way. His progression was only possible because he committed to himself and his goals. That is the start and finish of any accomplishment."
Maloy is expected to have a large cheering section in Brazil.
Parents Joe Jr. and Mary are going, as is younger brother John.
"We have over 30 people going to Rio between our family, Joe's former Boston College teammates and people from around here," Maloy's father said Saturday. "I'm truly amazed at the amount of support everyone has given him and us.
"I'm even becoming a celebrity. I was at the South Jersey (Lifeguard Championships) in Avalon Friday night, and people were introducing me as the father of an Olympian. Even Avalon is claiming him as one of theirs because I play tennis there a lot. It's been overwhelming."
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Maloy is not considered among the top contenders - the field includes defending Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee of Great Britain and his brother Jonathan, a bronze medalist in 2012 - but he's in the midst of an incredible season that included victories in the Noosa Triathlon in Australia in November and most recently the Escape from Alcatraz race in San Francisco in June.
The tougher the conditions Thursday, the better his chances.
""I look at it as a race of attrition, and that's going to work in my favor," Maloy said. "All those curveballs will favor someone like me. I think the fact that I was a lifeguard gives me an advantage because I see things from a different perspective than most of the other guys in the race. I'm not going to be fazed by swallowing a mouthful of water or having to run in the sand.
"Life doesn't happen in perfect conditions. You have to be ready for anything. And I am."