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Published: Wednesday, 2/20/2008

Sylvania pair turns sports hobby into opportunity

Jim Donaldson is a longtime competitor in triathlons and Ironman events and his wife, Joyce, is a veteran official for triathlon world championships. Jim Donaldson is a longtime competitor in triathlons and Ironman events and his wife, Joyce, is a veteran official for triathlon world championships.
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Joyce Donaldson, as she has for more than two decades, will spend time this summer managing the Sylvania Triathlon.

Two days after the Aug. 10 triathlon, she will be heading to Beijing to do many of the same things, but on the much larger stage of the Olympic Games.

Ms. Donaldson will be the only U.S. official designated an International Technical Official among those who will oversee the triathlon events at the Olympics, and it comes after years of gradually having increased responsibility officiating in other triathlons, including world championships.

At one time, the Sylvania Township woman was a competitor in triathlons, but was forced to give it up after a drunken driver struck her in 1985 while she was training on her bicycle.

"I'm thankful, because I'm still here, but I was never able to compete as well after the accident," she said.

Nevertheless, she remained involved in the sport as an official, in part because her husband Jim has been a successful competitor for years.

He has completed five Ironman competitions and has been in world championships 12 times as a member of the U.S. Triathlon team.

Both he and his wife have worked together running competitions in the area.

They started as volunteers and kept picking up more and more responsibilities.

They eventually founded Elite Endeavors as a race-management company.

Mr. Donaldson said that as events have grown it just wasn't possible to keep up their activities on a volunteer basis.

This year, the company will manage 10 multisports events and a few running events.

Ms. Donaldson said their involvement and her work as an official have grown as the sport has grown and become more organized.

The triathlon involves running, swimming, and bicycling, and most of the rules involve general sportsmanship as well as technical specifications for the bicycles.

Most of the athletes compete fairly, she said, although she has had to penalize a few who have elbowed or pushed an opponent to gain an advantage.

Many competitors who arrive in different parts of the world for international championships aren't always well equipped because of the relatively low profile of the sport.

They aren't surrounded by interpreters, and they don't have much money for expenses in many cases, she noted.

Although her job is to officiate, over the years she said she has made many friends by trying to make the events a little easier for some of the athletes.

She recalled a competition in San Francisco where an oil spill had spoiled the water and the swimming portion of the event had to be called off.

Some athletes had arrived from Mexico in an attempt to finish well enough to gain qualifying points toward future international competitions.

"The entry fee was a lot of money to them," she said.

"They asked me if anything could be done, because their real purpose was the points and now they couldn't get any."

Ms. Donaldson said some diplomatic discussions resulted in the entry fee being waived.

Mr. Donaldson will accompany his wife for the trip to China.

Although they are both veterans of several world championships and other international events in their sport they are both looking forward to the Olympics.

Some arrangements are not yet finalized, but Ms. Donaldson said her fondest hope will be to see the concluding ceremonies.

"That would be something," she said.

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