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June 27, 2013

Groff preparing for 2016 with new coach

Cooperstown Crier

---- — Midway through her 2013 season, Sarah Groff is preparing for her next shot at the Olympics with a new coach.

Groff, the former Cooperstown resident and CCS student affectionately known as Groffy, who finished fourth in the Women’s Triathlon at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, switched trainers in April leaving Darren Smith for Joel Filliol.

Groff would train with Smith in Australia and Switzerland for eight months of the year. She told, that she felt that having a more stable home life would enhance her ability to prepare for the 2016 Olympics.

“I think I knew that after the Olympics I was going to make a change, be based in the U.S. a little bit more,” Groff said. “I was living out of my suitcase for eight months out of the year for the previous couple of years. It just takes its toll on you.”

Filliol does training in the United States. “(He) has a group that does (International Triathlon Union), and I get along really well with him. It’s very low-key. We do our thing, we work hard, but it’s not a high-pressure group. The attitude is a bit more relaxed, which is definitely what I need right now,” Groff said.

Groff said that she feels she has gotten to the point as an athlete where she knows more about what is right for her and now needs a coach that is willing to have a dialogue about how to achieve her goals. Although she said she and Smith parted on good terms, he was more used to athletes who didn’t question him. “I’m just a smart aleck. He’s used to athletes who do whatever he says. I just question—I like a healthy debate,” she said.

Groff, who lives in New Hampshire with her boyfriend, running coach Ben True, said it is definitely helping her to be at home more.

“This year I was actually in New Hampshire till February. … We have a house we rent — we have a little setup, we have a dog — just trying to settle into a pseudo-normal domestic life for a little bit. Then we went down to Clermont (Fla., to train) in early February. We were able to pack up the pickup and bring the dog and drive down. … I can’t do that if I go to Australia.”

Groff is ranked 15th in the world for women in the ITU World Triathlon Series with 1,002 points. Her Olympic teammate Gwen Jorgensen is ranked first with 2,233 points. Groff has finished seventh in her last two events, April 9 in San Diego and June 1 in Madrid. There are ITU races in July in Germany and Austria.

Groff was leading the San Diego meet early in the run, but faded late. She told that she took the lead deliberately to try to test out a new strategy for the race.

“I tried to do something a little different,” she explained. “It’s been a few years since I tried to go off the front. The fitness wasn’t quite there but I went for it. It was fun … and it was really not so fun after the first lap of the run, but you know, it’s nice to know we can get organized off the front, it’s just a matter of having the fitness to back it up on the run. The best athletes in the world — the Brownlees, Gomez, Jenkins, Spirig — it doesn’t matter how the race unfolds, they can dictate what happens.

“Eventually I want to be at that point,” she continued. “It might take a few years but you have to start somewhere. I wasn’t afraid to blow up and I did, but I took a risk.”