I was poking around the archives to see what happened in triathlon history around this time of year, and came across the October 1984 issue of Running & Triathlon News. Scott Molina was on the cover for having won in dominating fashion the World's Toughest Triathlon on...Read More
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History, it has been argued, is written by the victors. But In this case, it is being written by a few of us who were there and are willing to write it. A fool’s errand, perhaps. Surely, the question will be asked and answered: Does anyone really care? Time will tell.
Why trihistory.com? Well, why history of anything at all? Historians are driven to remember, record, interpret. It feels almost genetic. You’re either interested in the past or you’re not. It means something to you or it doesn’t. But if it does -- and particularly if it’s connected to a physical activity in which you are actively, perhaps even passionately, involved – you’re all in. We’re interested in the history of triathlon for the same reason we’re interested in the history of our families, our parents; it matters how it all came together. It matters because we are both players in the ongoing genealogical drama and products of all that has gone before.
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By all accounts, the performance of 35-year-old American triathlete Tim O’Donnell at the 2015 Ironman World Championships in Kona was a breakthrough – especially so on the bike. There was a discernable note of surprise in the race-day coverage when O’Donnell went strongly to the front on the way down from the turnaround at Hawi. And in interviews after the race, O’Donnell admitted to sharing in that surprise – at least a little. Suddenly, there he was in front. What now?
For O’Donnell, it was a take-or-leave-it moment. There was hesitation in the field after early leader Ben Hoffman had been caught and passed; it was someone’s turn to step up, step in, so O’Donnell picked up the flag and pedaled on. “I just said to myself, just ride your ride,” he told Triathlete magazine, “ride what you’re capable of doing. I felt great.”
O’Donnell didn’t stay in front all the way into town, but he stayed close, then ran in second place for the first half of the marathon, a little more than two minutes behind the leader Jan Frodeno. Then things got interesting.
Watching the race updates on my phone, I saw that O’Donnell had closed the gap to a little more than a minute coming put of the Natural Energy Lab. Either that, or Frodeno was cracking. But the gap re-opened quickly, then widened, and before long, O’Donnell was asking folks along the course about the German, Andreas Raelert, who was in third. It was a sure sign that O’Donnell was done, that his fate was now in the hands of the course, the gods of the Big Island, the long day of racing, the man coming hard behind. His brief shining time in the driver’s seat of the Ironman World Championships had passed.
I couldn’t help but ponder in that moment what O’Donnell’s coach, the legendary Mark Allen, was thinking.
In part 1, Silk discussed how she acquired the Ironman, why and how she moved it Kona from Oahu, and the early parts of taking the race commercial. Her tale of the Feb. 1982 event where she missed the Julie Moss/Kathleen McCartney episode is the stuff of legend.
In part 2, Valerie offers additional thoughts on those seminal years, her sale to Dr. James Gills of Florida, the current sale-in-works to the Chinese multinational corporation, Dalian Wanda, and her own forgotten legacy within triathlon.
The Ironman was over and there was no particular place to go.
“If the earth has a soul and Alcatraz Island is stuck in some geographical purgatory, it would all make sense, would it not? It could pay the penance of all those who had used this place for evil by itself acting like a bridge. -- S.Tinley, from The Alcatraz Swimmer’s Manual by Joe Oakes