COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — USA Triathlon today recognized four of the most successful coaches in its ranks as its 2019 Coaches of the Year, presented by Wahoo Fitness. Ian O’Brien, Wesley Johnson and Christine Palmquist were honored for their accomplishments in coaching national team athletes, paratriathletes and developmental athletes, respectively, while Graham Wilson was named the first-ever USA Triathlon Coach Educator of the Year. Nominations were open to the public, and category winners were determined by a USA Triathlon selection panel of coaching and sport education professionals.
National Coach of the Year: Ian O’Brien
O’Brien (Denver, Colo.), head coach of ORIGIN Performance, was named National Coach of the Year for the second consecutive year. ORIGIN athletes achieved multiple breakout performances on the world stage in 2019, led by U.S. National Team members Matt McElroy (Huntington Beach, Calif.) and Eli Hemming (Kiowa, Colo.). McElroy and Hemming ended the season as two of three men ranked in the top-30 of the ITU World Olympic Qualification points list, putting the U.S. on track to earn three quota spots for men at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
McElroy made history at the 2019 ITU World Triathlon Series stop in Leeds, England, becoming just the second U.S. man in history — and the first in a decade — to win a WTS medal. McElroy and Hemming each secured their first ITU Triathlon World Cup victories in 2019, ending the season with a combined four gold medals, one silver and one bronze on the ITU World Cup circuit.
O’Brien also coached junior elite triathlete Gillian Cridge (Indianapolis, Ind.) to her second straight USA Triathlon Junior Elite national title, a ninth-place finish at the ITU Junior World Championships and a bronze medal at the Sarasota-Bradenton CAMTRI Junior American Cup.
“We have had a consistent growing trajectory in terms of performance for my athletes over the past several years. Each year we get better and better,” O’Brien said. “I am extremely honored and humbled to receive this award, but it’s truly a reflection of the team and culture we have been building over the past quadrennial. This award adds to the confirmation that we are consistently getting it right, but we are truly modest and learning every day in our pursuit of excellence.”
In addition to his National Coach of the Year honors in 2018 and 2019, O’Brien was also named USA Triathlon’s Developmental Coach of the Year for 2016.
Paralympic Coach of the Year: Wesley Johnson
Johnson (Sandy, Utah) was named Paralympic Coach of the Year for his outstanding achievements coaching U.S. elite paratriathletes to international success in 2019. He was also honored as the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee’s Paralympic Coach of the Year in November at the Team USA Awards Presented by Dow, Best of the Year.
Johnson leads a squad of elite, junior elite and paratriathlon elite athletes as the founder and head coach of Balanced Art Multisport in Salt Lake City. He was an assistant coach for the U.S. team at the 2019 ITU Paratriathlon World Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland. In that role, he guided Kendall Gretsch (Downers Grove, Ill., PTWC), Allysa Seely (Glendale, Ariz., PTS2) and Kelly Elmlinger (San Antonio, Texas, PTS4) to silver medals, and five additional U.S. elite paratriathletes to top-five finishes.
Johnson also coached the U.S. team at the ITU World Paratriathlon Series event in Yokohama, Japan, where American athletes earned three gold medals, two silvers and one bronze. He is the personal coach of Grace Norman (Cedarville, Ohio, PTS5) and Chris Hammer (Salt Lake City, Utah, PTS5), who each ended their seasons ranked No. 3 in the world, and Brad Snyder (Baltimore, Md., PTVI), who finished the season ranked No. 8 in the world in just his second year as an elite paratriathlete.
“Receiving this award is a huge honor for me,” Johnson said. “I have had some major challenges these past few years, which have led to experiences and achievements I never could have imagined. My passion and love is working with athletes on a daily basis, and the reward is seeing them reach their goals and the people they become through the process.”
Developmental Coach of the Year: Christine Palmquist
Palmquist (Geneva, Ill.), who was USA Triathlon’s 2017 Paratriathlon Coach of the Year, was honored as the 2019 Developmental Coach of the Year for her work with up-and-coming youth and junior elite athletes. Palmquist is the head coach and manager of the Chicago-based MMTT Youth Triathlon Team. She coached MMTT to the youth team title at the 2019 USA Triathlon Youth & Junior National Championships, as two MMTT athletes earned individual national titles. She also helped MMTT to host two youth races in 2019, a Splash & Dash Youth Aquathlon and a Youth & Junior Elite Cup.
Palmquist served as USA Triathlon’s Paratriathlon Youth Coordinator for the third straight year, working to bring young athletes with physical and visual impairments into the sport of paratriathlon — including seven who participated at Youth & Junior Nationals. She also coached and presented at several grassroots paratriathlon and beginner-focused camps and clinics across the country.
Palmquist impacted the USA Triathlon coaching community by contributing to USA Triathlon’s coaching education materials as a volunteer for the USA Triathlon National Coaching Committee and National Paratriathlon Coaching Committee; produced content for usatriathlon.org and the Multisport Zone weekly e-newsletter; created a youth paratriathlon webinar for USA Triathlon; and participated in USA Triathlon’s Paris 2024 paratriathlon planning summit. Also in 2019, Palmquist launched her own coaching company and USA Triathlon-certified club, both called Cloud 10 Multisport.
“I love bringing people into the sport of triathlon and consider it one of my highest priorities as a coach,” Palmquist said. “Developing our USA Triathlon pipeline is work that is often overlooked, even though it is intensely rewarding internally. Winning this award is one of the greatest rewards I could earn as a coach. Development is a project of passion, and I admire all the coaches across the country who put their time and energy into new triathletes.”
Coach Educator of the Year: Graham Wilson
Wilson (Green Oaks, Ill.) earned USA Triathlon’s inaugural Coach Educator of the Year Award, presented to a Coach Educator, American Development Model (ADM) Sport Educator or volunteer who has made an impact in the coaching education space.
Wilson is the Chair of USA Triathlon’s National Coaching Committee, a volunteer group of seven USA Triathlon-certified coaches who advise USA Triathlon’s coaching education staff and serve as a voice for the wider USA Triathlon coaching community. In 2019, Wilson also personally mentored three USA Triathlon Level I certified coaches. He is the founder and head coach of the Wilson Coaching Group and has been racing and coaching multisport for more than 25 years.
“I am honored and humbled, especially as this award is voted upon by our fellow coaches,” Wilson said. “My passion has always been to help all clients and colleagues achieve their full potential.”
USA Triathlon named its full roster of 2019 Athletes of the Year — including Age Group Triathletes, Age Group Duathletes, Elite Paratriathletes and Elite, U23 and Junior Elite Triathletes — earlier this week. Click here to view the full list of honorees.
About USA Triathlon
USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the National Governing Body for triathlon, as well as duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, winter triathlon, off-road triathlon and paratriathlon in the United States. Founded in 1982, USA Triathlon sanctions more than 4,300 events and connects with more than 400,000 members each year, making it the largest multisport organization in the world. In addition to its work at the grassroots level with athletes, coaches, and race directors — as well as the USA Triathlon Foundation — USA Triathlon provides leadership and support to elite athletes competing at international events, including International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championships, Pan American Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of the ITU and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC).