Joe Maloy used an impressive rally late in the men's Olympic Triathlon Thursday to become the top American finisher in Rio de Janiero.
Maloy, a 2004 Wildwood Catholic High School graduate, finished in 23rd place among 55 competitors at Copacabana Beach. His time was 1 hour, 48 minutes, 30 seconds.
“You can’t ever quit. You have to keep fighting and keep persevering,” Maloy said in quotes on the USA Triathlon website. “That’s what triathlon is about and in a broader sense that’s what the Olympic Games are about. I was really proud of the way I ran. I didn’t give up; I didn’t quit. I kept fighting and that was the best I had. I wanted to make my family and my country proud.”
Great Britain's Alistair Brownlee won his second consecutive gold medal, completing the 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike and 10K run in 1:45.01. Younger brother Jonathan Brownlee finished six seconds behind to earn the silver while South Africa's Henri Schoeman earned the bronze medal.
Maloy, 30, was in 40th place after the bike leg, but steadily made up ground during the run. Upon crossing the finish line as the top American finisher, Maloy dropped onto his back while race officials gave him water.
"It's special. It's something I can't put into words. My family is here and my coach is here. What makes sports special are people coming together to enjoy it - the community, the social aspect.," Maloy said. "It helps bring people together and inspires people in a way that very few other things do. That's something that will stay with me forever."
Maloy was bidding to become the first local male Olympian to earn a medal since Holy Spirit High School graduate John Pescatore won a bronze in rowing as a member of the U.S. men's eight boat at the 1988 Games in Seoul, South Korea.
A former swimmer and runner at Wildwood Catholic and a swimmer at Boston College, he was in 33rd place after the swim, but got stuck in a trail pack during the bike leg that wasn't able to make up much ground.
Maloy started his comeback once he jumped off his bike and pulled on his running shoes and white cap. He was in 29th midway through the run and kept up an impressive pace that enabled him to pass six more runners.
Maloy first revealed his goals while a student at Crest Memorial School.
When he was in the first grade, his teacher asked the class to keep a journal. One of his first entries read: “I am going to the Olympics.”
Maloy was a standout swimmer and runner at Wildwood Catholic and was a distance swimmer at Boston College. He decided to pursue becoming a professional triathlete in 2010, when he left his job as an assistant coach at Boston College.
"In 2010, I was at a point in my life where I had to make a decision on what I wanted to do as a triathlete," Maloy said earlier this summer. "I was 24 years old and I knew that if I didn't pursue my Olympic dream right then and there, the opportunity wouldn't be there anymore. I had to do it."
Maloy moved to Philadelphia to work on his cycling skills, then headed to San Diego, where he lives and trains with reknowned coach Paolo Sousa.
But he still considers Wildwood Crest home. Upon qualifying for the Olympics, he came back to the area for a week in May to visit with family and friends. The community surprised him with a ceremony at a beachfront pavilion. Nearly the entire town showed up, with hundreds of fans packed on the lawn around the stage.
“I may be crying now, but I’m tough,” Maloy said at the ceremony. “I swear to God I’m tough. But this is not just my journey. It’s about us, it’s about my friends and family and coaches and everyone. You are all part of me and I’ll be taking you with me. And on August 18th, we’re going to show the whole world what Wildwood Crest is all about.”
Approximately 30 people watched the race at Copacabana Beach, including his parents, Joe and Mary Maloy, brother John, and a number of friends from both Boston College and the Wildwood Crest Beach Patrol, where Joe was a lifeguard for six summers.
Maloy is one of 55 competitors in today's race, which consists of a 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike and 10K run. He is not considered one of the top contenders - Spains Mario Mola is the favorite, along with brothers Alistair and Jonathan Greenlee of Great Britain - but the difficult nature of the course should make it a wide-open race.
"I look at it as a race of attrition and that's going to work in my favor," Maloy said last week. "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."