Sunday, July 3, 2016

Rio Bound! - Interview with Chris Hammer

Chris Hammer has won all three of the local races he's entered this season, but he has bigger fish to fry... learn more about this incredible athlete as he prepares to represent the US in Rio. Thanks for the time, Chris, we'll be cheering you on!

What’s your background and how did you get into triathlon?

I grew up in Michigan playing a bunch of different sports. I started running in middle school - mostly to get in shape for hockey - and found that I was actually pretty decent at it. I ended up running collegiately and a little post collegiately. It wasn't until after the 2012 Paralympic Games that I decided to pursue triathlon.

What brought you to Utah, and what’s your take on the tri scene in our state?

My wife and I moved to Utah in 2013 so that I could pursue a PhD in sport psychology at the University of Utah. My wife works as a physical therapist here as well. I am unfamiliar with the tri scene in other states because my whole triathlon career has taken place in Utah, but I have been thoroughly impressed with the Utah tri scene. There are so many great events and committed athletes, and I have really enjoyed being a part of it. And of course the scenery is incredible. I can head out for a bike and within 15 miles it looks like I am in Middle Earth (excuse my Lord of the Rings reference).

As respectfully as I can ask, were you born with the partial defect of your arm/hand or did something occur later? Does it hold you back in any practical ways as a triathlete or has it driven you to overcome and be great?

I was born without a left hand and my whole left arm into the scapular is slightly underdeveloped in general. Since I was born like this, it is hard for me to really think about what I am missing out on or what challenges I face that are unique to me because this is all I know.

Don’t be modest here… by your best estimation, just how strong are your forearms? : those of a toddler (  ) Stasinos-esque (  ) Taylor Swift-ish (  ) your average ColdStone employee (X) Serena Williams (  ) Arnold in his prime (  ) Popeye (  ) The Incredible Hulk (  ) Zeus (  )

I have to go with ColdStone employee, but mostly because I scoop ice cream for myself on a nightly basis.

When did you decide to go for the Olympics in Rio, when is the big day, and what are your goals?

After the London 2012 Paralympic Games we were invited to the White House. When I was sitting in the airport to go back home, I was surfing the internet and saw that paratriathlon was going to be contested for the first time ever at the 2016 Paralympic Games. That's when I sent an email to the USAT Paratriathlon program manager to inquire about the sport. I didn't really consider the fact that I didn't know how to swim and that I never road a road bike before. The Rio Paralympic Games takes place a few weeks after the Olympics, so I race sometime in early September. The goal is for me to get to the starting line healthy and knowing that I did everything in my power to be as prepared as I possibly could be. If I do that, hopefully the results take care of themselves.

Do you have other races on your schedule in getting primed for Rio?

I am not sure if I will be doing any other local races, but I will race the ITU Paratriathlon World Championships in Rotterdam, Netherlands at the end of July.

How has Wes/ the BAM team helped you in your preparation?

Having committed coaches has been one of the most beneficial things that has happened to me as a triathlete. You don't really realize how much goes into a training plan and proper periodization, so having someone take care of that for you so that you can just focus on the actual training is a necessity. And then I also have an awesome bike coach (Jeff Sherrod) and strength coach (Andrew Stasinos) whose help has also been so important for my development as a triathlete. I also train with BAM athletes on a daily basis and have become good friends with a number of them, and that has made training even more enjoyable. Being a part of BAM has just really allowed me to connect with a network of really cool people who I am so fortunate to get to know.

On the local scene, you won Icebreaker, Salem Spring and East Canyon over a slew of young BAM talent. Like a dad proving he can still "take" his teenage son, do you feel some sense of personal duty in teaching the young bucks a lesson on race day?

That's a funny question, but there is some truth to that. I train with a lot of these guys and we all wish the best for each other, but at the same time we are competitive and we want to win. But I do hope that I can set a good example for these young guys and help them achieve their goals, because they are so talented and are going places in this sport and in life. It won't be long until I am chasing them. But also, I feel a responsibility to race well to represent paratriathlon. A lot of people see the Paralympics and para sport in general as more of a feel good story rather than high level sport. I feel that by me racing at a high level locally, I hopefully bring a little bit more awareness or maybe credibility to para sport.

Tell us about your family, you have a young daughter, correct?

I have a wife, Amy, who I met in college. We both ran on the cross-country and track teams. She was an All-American athlete and could run a 5k in the 16:40s. She works as a physical therapist now. Being in a relationship with a triathlete is not easy because it is such a demanding sport, but she supports me despite all my travel and training, and for that I can't thank her enough. We have a daughter, Peyton, who is almost a year and a half. She wears us out because she goes non-stop, but she is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

What are your plans in the next couple years post-Rio, both racing and non-racing

My focus after Rio is to complete my PhD from the University of Utah and then I probably should get a real job. I really don't know what my triathlon future looks like at this point, but hopefully I don't get too out of shape after Rio.

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