Living the dream is not just a glib statement when you are talking about Austin Hindman.
The Lafayette graduate left the University of Missouri after just one year, choosing instead to turn professional in his chosen sport – triathlon.
“It’s been the dream since I was a little kid,” Hindman said in a phone call from Lima, Peru. “It’s a reality now for me. It’s still kind of a little bit surreal.”
At the time of the call, the 6-foot-3, 170-pound Hindman was with Team USA at the 2019 Pan Am Games. He finished 12th in the Elite Men’s competition with a time of 1 hour, 52.03 minutes. Broken down, his times were 17 minutes, 42 seconds in the 750-meter swim, 1:00.29 in the 20-kilometer bicycle race and 32.41 in the 5K.
In June, Hindman finished sixth in the Montreal CAMTRI Sprint Triathlon American Cup. In May, he was sixth in the Monterrey CAMTRI Triathlon American Championships in the Under 23 category. That was good for 17th overall in elite men.
In April, he was 16th in the Bridgetown CAMTRI Sprint Triathlon American Cup. In March, he was eighth in the Sarasota-Bradenton CAMTRI Sprint Triathlon American Cup.
“I’ve raced seven times this year,” he said. “There are ups and downs. It’s a pretty big learning curve on how to balance everything, travel and watch your nutrition. All in all, I’m pretty happy with how it’s worked out.
“I started out the year in South Africa. I then raced in Italy, and did some training in Europe like in Spain.”
The trip to Peru marked his first time to compete in South America.
He said turning pro and leaving college athletics behind “happened pretty fast.”
“I was expecting to spend five years running at Missouri and using up my NCAA eligibility,” said Hindman, a blue chip running prospect in the Class of 2017. He signed with the Tigers to compete in cross country and track and field and had a strong freshman year, running personal bests of 4:04 for the mile and 8:43 for the 3,200-meter race.
He also competed during the cross country and indoor seasons in his lone season at Mizzou, earning All-SEC Freshman team honors at the SEC Indoor Championships as the top freshman finisher in the 3,000-meter run.
At Lafayette, Hindman won nine state titles and was named the 2016-17 Gatorade Boys Track & Field Athlete of the Year. He set two Missouri state records in cross country and in the 3,200-meter run, clocking a time of 15:04.40 in cross country at the 2016 Nike Cross Nationals Midwest Regional and a time of 8:43.40 in the 3,200-meter run at the Arcadia Invitational in April 2017.
In 2016, he captured the ITU Triathlon Junior World Championship title and the USA Triathlon Junior Elite National Championships bronze medal. He claimed gold in the triathlon at the 2016 International Triathlon Union’s World Championships in Cozumel, Mexico, where he won with a time of 54:02. He became just the third American to win the event at the junior world level since it began as a competition in 1990, following Steve Duplinsky in 2005 and Lukas Verzbicas in 2011. He also competed in the 2016 USA Triathlon Junior Elite National Championships and won the bronze medal.
In 2017, Hindman competed in the ITU World Championships, where he finished 29th with a time of 58:06. Project Podium, a men’s elite development squad based at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, came calling for Hindman to join their initial roster. It was an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“It was definitely a tough decision. I was really happy at Mizzou,” Hindman said. “I had a really good team there. They were good coaches and teammates. But when this opportunity came up, it’s obviously the opportunity of a lifetime for me.”
The program is designed to develop top young male triathletes in the United States to achieve medal performances in major international competition. It is owned by USA Triathlon in partnership with Arizona State.
“The main focus and goal is putting U.S. guys on the podium in 2024 [Paris] and 2028 [Los Angeles] in the Olympics,” Hindman said but he hinted that the 2020 games are not completely out of the question. “It’s going to be tough for Tokyo, [but the USA could have] two or three make it.”