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Team Concept Keeps Hansen Sisters In Step : Athletes: Half of the family tandem will be in the San Diego International Triathlon.

June 22, 1991|KIM Q. BERKSHIRE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — She pestered. She badgered. She nagged. Five years later, she succeeded.

After what seemed like a long exercise in futility, world-class triathlete Joy Hansen got her way. Twin sister Joan, she of track and field fame, now is a bonafide triathlete.

Finally.

Joan Hansen, a 1984 Olympian and former world-record holder in the indoor 2-mile, came full circle a year ago when she succumbed to Joy's enduring persuasion. Joan competed in her first triathlon in July and broke the course record by seven minutes.

Excuse Joy if she reeked of self-satisfaction.

"What do you think her reaction was," said Joan, a former San Diego resident now living in Seattle. "She laughed and said, 'I told you so.' "

Sunday morning, Joan, 32, will compete in her third professional triathlon when she enters the cool waters of San Diego Harbor for the eighth running--and biking and swimming--of the San Diego International Triathlon.

That she is here and not training for the World Championships and a spot on the 1992 Olympic track and field team came about almost by accident.

"It began as a fluke," Joan said. "Joy had been after me for so long, and she finally got me to try one of the low key (triathlons.) Afterward, it was like, 'Hey, maybe I'm genetically right for this.' "

Maybe? Joan had wanted to wait until the end of the year to decide whether she'd turn pro, but three national amateur titles, the World Championship, the U.S. Triathlon Series National Championship, and the National Sprint Championship, further sealed her fate.

That success has come so quickly was a surprise to no one but Joan.

"To do a triathlon against people who have been doing it for years, after little conditioning and with it being a new experience for me, it's taking on a big challenge," Joan said.

But Jeffrey Justice, an editor and writer at Triathlete Magazine, has watched the Hansens, Joy over the years and Joan just recently, and sees their joint success merely as a reflection of their talent.

"Nothing that either Hansen does surprises me because of their athletic ability," Justice said. "Everything they touch turns to gold. Joan, in her first year, won everything she races and set records on every course. She had nothing more to gain by staying amateur."

Joy, of Newtown Square, Pa., and the defending Coke Grand Prix champion, signifying the overall winner of the Bud Light U.S.T.S., bypassed San Diego to race the U.S.T.S. stop in Baltimore this weekend. Joy said a lifetime of sports adequately prepared Joan for triathlons.

"We've been in sports for over 23 years," she said. "I knew she had the background."

Two-thirds of it, anyway. Joan was a proven talent at running and swimming--she and Joy were competitive swimmers and track athletes at Arizona--but her cycling skills were next to nothing. Her preparation for that initial race consisted of two practice bike rides.

"How many of us ride our bikes to school?" Joan said. "That was my experience with cycling. But I value learning. As long as you're open to learning, life will be very fascinating."

That Joan wasn't nearly as open to trying her hand at a sport in which her sister exceled could be traced to what Joan described as her misconceptions of the sport.

"It looked so painful from a spectator's standpoint," she said. "Not only did it look brutal, people looked so exhausted at the finish line. But it was a myth. I was so incorrect. I have so much enjoyment out of it and I get a tremendous amount of pleasure being in the same sport with my sister."

Three weeks ago, an Orange County triathlon was to be the first time the Hansen twins raced together as professionals. But Joan contracted a virus and was forced to sit out.

When they do race together, which Joy said will probably be in Cleveland in early August, they insist it will be with, not against , each other.

"That's a key word for us," Joan said. "We were not raised as individuals. We were raised as a twosome. We value that we'll both do well. We don't try to beat somebody. We try to do our best."

For Joan to do her best this Sunday, she must put in perspective the events that have unfolded over the past week.

On Father's Day, she found out her dad, who lives in Phoenix, has prostrate cancer. Joan didn't decided until late Wednesday if she would race here.

"I'm dealing with some demons of sorts," Joan said. "There's joyfulness in this homecoming, seeing friends, but some sadness in that it's not the same magic moment. I don't know if I'll be tigress or tearful out there."

Thursday night, Joan was able to talk to her father for the first time since his surgery Tuesday, in which Joan said doctors found all the cancer, which hadn't spread.

"He was phenomenal," she said of her father's spirits. "His sense of humor and courage will help (Sunday.) He's instilled that in us and he practices it. What he taught us works."

Perhaps her experience at the 1984 Summer Olympics typifies Joan's close bond with her father.

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