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Bell ringing up top triathlon finishes

Sixth-place among United State triathletes at the World Amateur Championships in Germany this summer, Farragut native Eric Bell is overcoming injury. And his goals are clear.

Among noteworthy accomplishments since April is a top 15 showing overall at a race in Tampa, Fla., “probably the third biggest race in the United States,” Bell said, adding he was third overall among “elite amateurs.”

Having won his Tennessee qualifying race, Bell, 28, has qualified for “Best of the U.S., [featuring] the top amateur from every state,” to be held in October. “I hope to win that in October, and then I’d like to be probably top 10 in the world championships,” Bell said. “I should be able to. … It’s a very, very reasonable goal.”

Living in the Knox County area, “The goal is to move to Colorado, to Boulder, that’s where the hotbed of all top triathletes in the country are training together,” Bell said. “It’s really hard to do it myself every day. Just training with people, if they are better than you, training day in and day out with the best in the world will make you better.”

The obstacle? “Money, right now,” said Bell, who said he currently is training and coaching athletes locally as part owner of a Knox County business, Optimal Performance, Inc. “Hopefully I can get a sponsorship after this fall to allow me to not have to work, to be able to move out there and train and live and do my thing out there,” Bell said.

Bell, a 1998 FHS graduate who was state champion in the mile run while helping the Admirals win the boys state title his senior season, finished 21st at the U.S. Nationals in Portland, Ore. earlier this summer.

Bell labeled that event “a rough day,” saying he was struggling with a rib injury because he had “raced a ton lately. That creates problems when you’re breathing and trying to get after it.”

Bell added the rib injury hampered him for “three or four races” in the first half of the 2007 season, which runs April through October.

“In spite of that I’ve done a lot of things, it just hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. … Forcing me to be mindful of my training. … The thing that really separates me is my running, and it’s been really difficult,” he added. “I haven’t been at full potential at any of my races with this rib injury that’s causing problems on the run.”

The Portland result, though disappointing in Bell’s eyes, qualified him for the World Amateur Championships, “and it qualified me to go to Vancouver, Canada, [June 2008, another] world championship race” Bell said. “I’m still in the amateur ranks now, but I’ll probably be turning pro by the end of this year.”

The delay in moving up involves “having to work on my swim a little bit,” Bell said. “The way Americans race, it’s non-drafting races, means you can’t draft on the bike. If I turn pro I’ll go to the I-T-U, the International Triathlon Union, which is the world federation, which allows you to draft legally at that point.”

Cedar Bluff Cycles and EBS, an insurance provider for businesses, Bell’s two major sponsors, “have helped out a ton,” the triathlete said. “I can’t take all the credit, those guys have helped me out a ton.”


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