A Santa Monica teenager has turned his love of exercise into a budding triathlon career.

Andrew Hanson, a 17-year-old Samohi senior, recently returned from competing in the USA National Triathlon Championships in Cleveland, Ohio. That triathlon was one of the only few Hanson has done as he’s surprisingly fairly new to the sport.

Hanson placed 13th in his age group and 280th overall (out of 2,500) to earn a spot on the USA Olympic National Team. Hanson will represent the United States next year at the Triathlon World Championships in Edmonton, Canada.

“Representing the U.S. definitely means a lot,” Hanson said. “I mean, before this time last year I wasn’t even a triathlete, I never did one before. I think it means that I have potential for the sport. I’ve just got to keep training, keep going.”

Before he was receiving accolades-a-plenty for his triathlon performances, an 11-or-so-year-old Hanson wanted to be a junior lifeguard but knew he wasn’t any good at swimming.

“It was like this summer camp thing and it looked like fun,” Hanson said, “But I was a slow swimmer. I knew I had to get better and I wanted to.”

Yearning for self-improvement led Hanson to join school swim teams and a life of pushing himself to the limits. He always wanted to be the best, whether that was against others or himself. He excelled at the sport for six years and found himself wanting another challenge.  Around sometime last year, Hanson thought to himself, a triathlon… why not?

“I ride my bike every day, I’m a swimmer, I’m used to running — why not try a triathlon,” Hanson said. “I did a super easy one, had a ton of fun and I wanted to do more. I did a few more this year, qualified for nationals, then found out they were giving out spots for the national team, so I was like, that sounds like fun, I should do that.”

Hanson says all this with his tongue planted firmly in cheek; he knows this isn’t an easy sport and acknowledges his parents and coaches him for giving him the support he needed. But also,  hell, all this just comes naturally to him.

When asked if he was nervous at all, performing in the USA National Triathlon Championships in Cleveland, he does admit nervousness… but not for what you’d expect.

“I wasn’t nervous necessarily about placing in the race, more nervous about the race itself,” he said.

What was it about the race itself? The pressure? The increased competition?

“Well,” Hanson began, ”It was only my 4th triathlon and second Olympic and I’d never been in Cleveland. I didn’t know the climate there. It was a lot more humid so I was like, dying out there.

“I was getting passed during the run on this race—my worst event—and multiple times I thought about stopping and lying down. I felt like I was going to faint. I told myself if I just stop thinking about the pain and realize it’s over in 20 minutes, I’ll be fine. It helped me get past that mental hurdle, get over the pain. It’s not so bad when you think about it.”

angel@smdp.com

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