Joe Maloy has chased his dream all over the world.
The 2004 Wildwood Catholic High School graduate has been to such faraway places as South Africa, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand over the past six years, all to further his chances of qualifying for the United States Olympic Team in triathlon racing.
But when he travels to such far-off destinations or trains near his current home in San Diego, Maloy is never far from his Wildwood Crest roots in spirit.
That’s why, when he toes the starting line for the final Olympic qualifying race next Saturday at the World Triathlon Yokohama in Japan, he will have done so after listening to one of his favorite songs – “People Back Home” by Florida Georgia Line. Listening to that song is part of his usual pre-race routine because it reminds him of his native community.
Maloy, also a former standout competitor for the Wildwood Crest Beach Patrol, is currently a close second to Greg Billington in USA Triathlon’s Objective Ranking System for qualification for this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. He’s comfortably ahead of third-place Eric Langerstrom. The top three athletes in the American rankings following this weekend’s race in Yokohama will qualify for the Olympic Games.
Maloy, 30, finished a best-ever sixth and as the first American in his most recent race, the World Triathlon Gold Coast in Australia. He’ll enter this weekend’s 1.5K swim-40K bike-10K run race in Yokohama as a strong favorite to make the Olympic Team, almost regardless of where he finishes.
“Right now I stand in a pretty good position,” Maloy said in a telephone interview prior to departing for Japan.
But even on the cusp of Olympic qualification with a race in a country halfway around the world, Maloy said he will be thinking of all the people who helped mold him into the athlete he is today as he competes.
“I’m a product of the support I received growing up at home,” Maloy said. “I had great coaching and I got a great education. Basically, everyone put me where I am. I owe a lot to Crest Memorial (Elementary School) and Wildwood Catholic and the Crest Dolphins (swim team) and the Crest beach patrol and to all my coaches growing up. I owe my success to all those people.”
It’s obvious Maloy has the support of his local community as well. Wildwood Catholic held a pep rally in his honor Friday in the school gymnasium.
After a stellar swimming and cross country career at Wildwood Catholic, Maloy went on to enjoy an excellent four-year swimming career at Boston College, where he later became an assistant coach while pursuing his masters degree.
But rather than entering the workforce after finishing with his schooling, Maloy instead opted to dive headfirst into the world of triathlon racing. He became hooked on the sport after competing for the first time in Belleplain in 2008. He turned pro in 2010 and has been working toward making the Olympic Team ever since.
“I was always thinking Olympics even when I first started but it slowly became a little bit more real over the past three years,” Maloy said. “I’ve really taken some steps forward the last few years.”
Maloy, one of six American men scheduled to compete in Japan, said his approach to next weekend’s race won’t change.
“I just want to try to control what I can control,” he said. “I know this is a bigger race and there’s an awful lot more riding on it but it doesn’t change anything in terms of the way I need to prepare or the things I have to execute in the race. It’s a matter of me going out and racing a triathlon. It’s not much more complicated than that.”
“I’m sure someone could sit down and go over the numbers try to figure out what I need to do (to earn Olympic qualification). I already have some pretty good scores and I can only improve my standing with a good finish. Basically anything else that might happen is out of my hands. If I start worrying about how many points someone would need to pass me, then I’m trying to control things I can’t control.”
Maloy will enter the event brimming with confidence after his strong finish in Australia. But he’s also sure not to be overconfident.
“I felt great about what happened in Australia but my thoughts were basically to put it behind me,” he said. “It was a great result for me – the best result of my life – but really the only thing I take from that and apply toward the next one is a little bit of confidence and little bit of validation in the work I’ve been doing, knowing I’m on the right track. But past performance doesn’t determine future results. Getting a good performance is a matter of going out and doing it.”
And, like usual, he’ll bring some South Jersey attitude to the race.
“A big part of what motivates me for sure is that I have a chip on my shoulder coming from South Jersey,” Maloy said. “We’re not looked at as a hotbed for people in triathlon racing. One of the things I always want to do is prove that we have a lot of talent from where we’re from in pretty much every field. I feel like part of my job with what I’m doing with triathlons is my little part to prove that and let people know we do a lot of good things in South Jersey.”
Next Saturday’s triathlon in Yokohama will air live on triathlonlive.tv. The men’s race is scheduled to begin at midnight Sunday ET (1 p.m. Saturday local time).
Ocean City High School graduate Renee Tomlin is one of six Americans competing in the women’s race in Yokohama.