Zeiger, Joanna : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Zeiger, Joanna

track and field

Country Represented:
United States

Years Competed:

Olympic Info:
A member of the United States track and field team at the 2000 Sydney Games, Zeiger competed in the women's triathlon. Ranked No. 38 in the world entering the Games, she was 12th after the first stage, the 1.5-km swim. She remained on pace to medal after the 40-km bike race (her weakest event), when she was in ninth place. She moved up to the front of the pack during the 10-km run, but came up just short and finished in fourth place (2:01:25.74), 17 seconds behind the bronze medalist, Magali Messner of Switzerland.

While many athletes loathe finishing fourth because of the anguish of coming so close to medaling, Zeiger took a positive approach and said, "My goal...was to be out there and realize that I'm doing something that I will remember for the rest of my life...On the fourth lap of the bike [out of six], I said to myself, This is totally awesome."

Career Highlights:
Zeiger, who graduated from the PhD program at Johns Hopkins University in genetic epidemiology, is a relative newcomer to the professional triathlon ranks, taking up the sport in 1993. She began to swim competitively when she was seven years old, and while attending Brown University, Zeiger earned All-Ivy League and All-Eastern honors in 3 of her 4 years, setting school swimming records in the 500-meter, 1000-meter, and 1650-meter freestyle races. She also qualified for the U.S. Olympic swimming trials in 1988 and 1992, but she did not make the team either year.

In 1993, an injury to her shoulder forced Zeiger to take up running in order to remain in shape. Later that year, she competed in her first triathlon, and a year later she earned the right to compete in the prestigious Hawaii Ironman. After being named U.S. amateur triathlete of the year in 1997, Zeiger turned professional in 1998 and was the 1998 U.S. triathlon rookie of the year. She proceeded to finish second in the past two U.S. Pro National Championships, firmly establishing herself as one of the top American triathletes. Zeiger finished 15th at the ITU World Championships in 1999. In April 2000, she debuted on the World Cup circuit, finishing third in Kona, Hawaii.

At the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials, Zeiger finished second to qualify for the Sydney Olympics. Her running and triathlon careers took off at the same time, and she also competed at the 2000 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trial, finishing in 30th place. Her running ability has allowed her to be highly successful at longer triathlons, as well as the shorter, Olympic-distance races. At the 1998 and 1999 Hawaii Ironman, Zeiger placed sixth. The race consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a full marathon (26.2-miles). All of those distances are considerably longer than the Olympic-distance race (.93 mile swim, 24.8-mile bike ride, and 6.2-mile run).

In 2001, Zeiger gained valuable experience in the triathlon, with an eye toward returning to the Olympic Games in 2004. After winning three consecutive triathlon competitions, she qualified for the Triathlon Union world championship, finishing in third place with a time of 1:59:56. Zeiger then finished second at the Ironman Lake Placid, fourth at the Los Angeles Triathlon, and third in the Florida Triathlon. She also won the Mrs. T's Triathlon in 2001.

In 2002, Zeiger won three 1/2 triathlons at St. Croix, Eagleman, and Vineman. In May 2003, she finished second at the St. Croix 1/2 Triathlon.

Birth and Death Dates:
b. May 4, 1970

Baltimore, Maryland

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