TO: You were 24?
TD: Yeah I was 24. I learned a lot from that one and then I took some steps backward by training long and training too hard. And then I think there was a pretty big drought. But then when I got third, that’s when people started saying, “Oh, maybe Tim can win.” But it wasn’t that big patriotic thing for me. I just wanted to place as high as I could. I know a lot of people want to be top American. They’re like: I was 10th but I was top American. Well I was top American when I was 10th one time, and it sucked. I’d rather be third American and third place than top American in 10th place. I still feel that way.
TO: I wonder if that mindset is maybe part of the problem?
TD: Absolutely. I think guys are thinking: If I’m top American, that’s good enough. It’s enough to get sponsors. But I think why would you want that? Go race the top guys as much as you can and go for the win. And so the whole patriotic thing happened for me mostly because of 9/11.
TO: What was that like?
TD: It wasn’t great. It took the focus away, and I had been really focused. The year before I had been second, and all I thought about was Kona. And then 9/11 happened, and we didn’t know if the race was even going to happen. So you’re kind of taken out of your game and your focus. The patriotic side didn’t really come through until I was running down Ali’i in first. Then it really hit home. I think people think I was out there fighting for America the whole time, and I’d love to say I was, but I just wanted to win. But it felt really good to cross and grab the flag, and then to see Thomas Hellriegel cross carrying the American flag and the German flag, that’s when it really hit home and really changed everything. I was really proud to be out there like that. And I always was very patriotic – going to the Goodwill Games, the Pan-Am Games was always really important to me. Racing for America is super important. I mean I never understood how someone could change countries. If you did that from the U.S., you’d be called a traitor! You’d be disowned! I think the patriotic thing is a big deal, and so racing for America is important. I always had an American flag on me somewhere on my kit and was very proud of that. I think we need a win again. But I don’t think it should add pressure to what you’re doing – because your mindset is you want to win the race anyway, it doesn’t matter if you’re racing for the U.S. or what, you just want to win the race. I think that’s the way a lot of other countries are. I think if you win Frankfurt and you’re a German, its almost as big as if you win Hawaii. Those national races are really big. I know Hawaii’s a world championship, but it’s our race, so I think it’s important for an American to be up there. Do you feel that pressure to be the next American?
TO: Somewhat. But it’s my first go. So few guys have gone out and just crushed it at their first go. There are U.S. guys that are going to be racing that have all raced multiple times.
TD: You’ve got to look at your strengths compared to the other guys. I mean you’re the one who’s built more for that race, for Kona. Potts is a big dude. And he just hasn’t shown that he’s going to break through over there. He’s got to focus on the race, and he hasn’t done that. Maybe I’ll be wrong this year – and prove me wrong, go Andy! But I think you need to focus on that race to do well. And from what I know he’s going to be racing the week before basically and the week after, and to me that doesn’t show he’s focused on Kona.