Famous Triathletes: Henry Forrest

The Hawaii Ironman is undoubtedly one of the most special multi-sport races in the world right now. And this isn’t only because it’s a grueling competition, but more so because of the folks who take part in it year after year. Each has a rousing story or two of perseverance. And one of the folks that have a particularly inspiring Hawaii Ironman tale is Henry Forrest.

Henry Forrest(image via www.slowtwitch.com)

Henry Forrest
(image via www.slowtwitch.com)

Who is Henry Forrest?

In the late 1970s, Henry Forrest was working with the Marine Corps and was stationed in the island of Oahu. A fitness enthusiast who would run to and from work, Forrest would practically be in every athletic competition held in the island, which back then were held mostly during the weekends. Forrest’s triathlon pursuits would later be known worldwide because of his participation in the first ever Hawaii Ironman in 1978.

Race preparation

Forrest would not have heard of the unlikely race had it not been for his wife Lou. Upon seeing a press release in the local paper detailing the grueling competition conceptualized by then US Navy Commander John Collins, Lou immediately informed his husband about it.

Henry’s reaction was one of surprise, saying that the concept was crazy. His wife encouraged him all the same. He later changed his mind though, thinking that he might just be able to do the race. After all, he was quite an excellent runner, and he did some swimming with the Marine Corps as well. Now, his only problem would be to teach himself again how to ride a bike for he has not ridden one since junior high school. Though his friends disagreed about his intention to participate in the race later on, he would proceed to preparing for the Ironman.

He sought the help of friends and colleagues to acquire a bike. Days prior to the race, an officer of the Marine Corps informed him that he had a 10-speed bike Forrest could borrow. The wicker basket at the front and the child seat at the back had to be removed though. He familiarized himself with the gears and did some training on the bike days before.

His plan was simple. He just needed to get through the swim portion and struggle through the bike leg. After these, he should have no trouble with the marathon, he thought.

Race day of the first Hawaii Ironman

Forrest and his support crew Lou and Nolan, a friend, got to the starting line at the beach at dawn. Participants and spectators soon started to pour in, and those who didn’t know him mistook his name as Henry Forrester, for when introduced, he would say “Henry Forrest, sir” briskly.

At the swim leg, he wore his running shorts and alternated freestyle, breaststrokes and backstrokes and got through fairly all right. After emerging from the water, he didn’t bother to change his wet shorts for he didn’t have a pair anyway. Besides, he thought this would lessen his transition time. He donned his running shoes, again thinking that doing so would reduce his transition time later, and immediately started the bike leg.

Though unskilled with the bike, he didn’t think it would be hard. After all, he would be sitting all the way through. But not knowing how to manipulate the gears was disastrous for it only made his ride at the steep portions of the course much harder. But he pedaled through and eventually completed this portion.

Once at the marathon leg, his spirits were up. Finally, he was at the last leg, and he was good at it. But perhaps due to the unfamiliar pedaling movements he made earlier, his body felt quite uncoordinated at the start of the run. But he ran mechanically, and one mile into the marathon, he felt his stride come back. He ran through the dark streets amid the light rain.

As he was nearing the finish line, he thought maybe there’d be crowds of people to cheer him on his triumph. But as he reached it, there were only three, Lou and Nolan, and a race official with a stop watch, waiting for him in the dark. He’d finished in 15 hours, 30 minutes, and 14 seconds, placing 7th overall.

Henry Forrest would go on to complete 6 Ironman races. In his later years, though he was no longer a competitor, he would be in the races to cheer on the participants. In 2007, he was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas and would succumb to the disease on November 6, 2008.

The Ironman didn’t turn professional until the latter part of the 1980s. There weren’t big cash prizes at the first few years of the competition. But this didn’t stop men like Henry Forrest from chasing their athletic pursuits and consequently inspire other regular folks to conquer their dreams.


Original Ironman Henry Forrest

Ironman Pioneer Henry Forrest Passes Away


Famous Triathletes: Judy Collins

Many credit then-Commander John Collins for the creation of Ironman, the most grueling multi-sport competition in the world right now. If not for his wild idea to combine the Waikiki Roughwater Swim, the Around Oahu Bike Race, and the Honolulu Marathon in one nonstop race, there wouldn’t be an Ironman in existence.

The unlikely concept for a race may be credited to John Collins, but handling the many aspects of the competition, specifically during the first two staged in 1978 and 1979, may be attributed to Judy Collins.

Who is Judy Collins?

Judy is none other than then-Commander John Collins’ wife. A housewife tending to two teenage kids in the mid 1970s, Judy would still find time to pursue her interest in sports. In fact, joining athletic competitions would become a family affair for the Collinses then, with husband and wife, as well as their two children Michael and Kristin, running in track meets together.

Judy and John Collins(image via www.thepanamanews.com)

Judy and John Collins
(image via www.thepanamanews.com)

Participation in the first modern triathlon

John Collins was in 1974 stationed in San Diego, California. Both avid health buffs, John and Judy would practically be in every masters athletic competition in and around the area, which back then weren’t that many. Having gotten wind of the 1974 Mission Bay Triathlon organized by Jack Johnstone and Don Shanahan, the couple eagerly signed up.

Race day was a late Wednesday afternoon on September 25, 1974. Judy, then 35 years old, placed 30th while the Commander was somewhere in the 22nd or 23rd place. Their children Kristin and Michael placed 33rd and 34th, respectively.

Contributions to Hawaii Ironman

The Collins family had to move to the scenic island of Oahu in Hawaii in the late 1970s due to the Commander’s job. In the island, it was not uncommon for families of armed forces personnel stationed there to each take turn to organize athletic competitions.

Having issued the unlikely concept for a race during a 1977 Oahu Perimeter Relay, the Commander would often get asked by those who have heard about it. Finally, in 1978, it was the Collins family’s turn to host an event, and the husband-and-wife team ultimately decided on staging the Ironman.

Preparation for the first Ironman was of course tedious. After disseminating information about the event, Judy helped organize manpower for the upcoming competition. Fortunately, Hank Grundman and Valerie Silk, then-owners of a chain of fitness shops in Hawaii, agreed to extend support.

Then crucial details for the event such as race course, rules, and other guidelines had to be straightened out. Judy was involved in ironing out said aspects. She also assisted in the tedious tasks like assembling trophies from scratch, the design of which was created especially by the Commander.

John Collins took part in the first ever Hawaii Ironman. Judy did not join the race though. Instead, she was her husband’s support crew that day.

Triathlon in Panama

In 1980, the Collinses again had to move for the Commander got assigned back to the mainland United States. Years would pass and the couple would have no idea how popular and successful the event they had conceptualized had become. Though Kristin and Michael would represent the Collins family to a handful of Hawaii Ironman competitions for years to follow, the couple would remain unacquainted of the event’s renown.

In the mid 1990s, John and Judy were already residing in Panama, in the scenic port city of Portobelo in Colon Province. Seeing as how the city was an ideal location for a triathlon, they wasted no time in organizing competitions there. John and Judy assisted in setting up a local triathlon association as well and eventually handed down the race organizing to the said group. In 1997, John and Judy would return to Hawaii Ironman and from then on would serve as ambassadors for triathlon, traveling to other countries to further spread the sport.


Triathlon – The Early History Of The Sport

An Officer and a Gentleman – John Collins

Right Time, Right Place. Triathlon’s Roots Run Deep In San Diego.

History of Triathlon: 2010

2010 saw the implementation of crucial procedures to keep the sport of triathlon clean and free from performance-enhancing drug use. The year was also witness to the remarkable performances of elite triathletes as well as the holding of competitions with huge monetary prizes.

ITU initiates anti-doping measures

2010 was the year that saw the commencement of the International Triathlon Union’s Athlete Biological Passport system. The mechanism, which adheres to the standards set by the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA), was set in place to specifically deter blood doping. At least 140 triathletes, most especially those of Olympic qualification level, will now have their blood and urine tested from three to five times within a year to ensure their biological markers are within acceptable levels.

McCormack repeats feat

2010 marked Australian Chris McCormack’s ninth year of racing at the Hawaii Ironman in Kailua-Kona. Though McCormack has proven his mettle with his remarkable 2007 Hawaii Ironman win, many were banking on German Andreas Raelert to dominate the race. Raelert was after all younger and had an impressive third place win at his first ever Hawaii Ironman race in 2009.

On race day, just a few miles to the finish line, McCormack and Raelert were running side by side. McCormack, after cooling off with one of the sponges he tucked in his race jersey, handed said sponge to Raelert, after which they shook hands. At the last aid station, both grabbed drinks. McCormack, however, took this opportunity to outrun his opponent, making it the Aussie’s second Hawaii Ironman gold.

Chris McCormack wins the 2010 Hawaii Ironman
(image via www.everymantri.com)

Bennett dominates ITU and USA Triathlon events

Laura Bennett’s triathlon career spans years. Among Bennett’s most notable competitions was at the 2008 Athens Olympic Games where she missed the bronze medal by a whisker for her country USA.

2010 was a noteworthy year for Bennett as well. She participated in a host of ITU World Championship races and became the best-ranked American finisher and 10th overall. She performed remarkably at a handful of USA Triathlon-sanctioned events as well, during which she grabbed another USA Triathlon elite national title. She was subsequently named the 2010 USA Triathlon Olympic and ITU Athlete of the Year for her achievements during the year.

Even bigger prize purse

The Hy-Vee World Cup is well-known in the triathlon crowd for its substantial monetary prizes. In fact, a total of $700,000 was distributed during its inaugural race in 2007, the biggest prize purse at the time.

Three years later, the Hy-Vee World Cup again became the first ever in the history of triathlon to give a staggering total prize purse of $1 million for a one-day event in 2010.


ITU starts Athlete Biological Passport testing

Chris McCormack

Laura Bennett Athlete Bio

History of Triathlon Timeline

History of Triathlon: 2007

Modern triathlon, which originated in San Diego, California, was by this time celebrating its 33 years of existence. Though just a little over three decades old, it’s certainly achieved a lot. No other fledgling sport became as popular and got considered as fast for the Olympic program than triathlon. And year 2007 saw positive highlights as well as the celebration of life of one of the most memorable triathletes to have ever graced the race circuit.

Death of a remarkable triathlete

The early part of the year started on a somber note for it was when triathlete Jon Blais died. Known as “Blazeman” in the race circuit, he was a huge inspiration to many. Though diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and losing the use of his fingers, he managed to achieve his lifelong dream of finishing the Hawaii Ironman in 2005. To celebrate his life and to continue his legacy, his friends and family put up the Blazeman Foundation. To this day, the foundation hosts charity triathlon competitions to raise awareness and funds for research on the debilitating disease ALS.

McCormack grabs Ironman gold

Australian Chris McCormack became a recognizable and respected name in the world of triathlon when he dominated the ITU World Championship and ITU World Cup races in 1997, an achievement no other male triathlete has yet matched to this day. Having set the goal to conquer the Big Island, McCormack raced his first Hawaii Ironman in 2002 though failed to finish. He joined consistently since, though with highly fluctuating results. Years of training finally paid off when he finished second in 2006, and finally snagged the gold the following year when he crossed the 2007 Hawaii Ironman finish line at an astounding time of 8:15:34.

Chris McCormack crossing the finish line of the 2007 Hawaii Ironman
(image via www.smh.com.au)

First British woman to dominate Ironman women’s division

United Kingdom’s Chrissie Wellington was a newcomer to the Hawaii Ironman race circuit in 2007. Though she is not a stranger to the grueling endurance sport, having won the 2006 Lausanne ITU Age Group World Championships, 2007 was her first race as an elite triathlete. No other debut can perhaps be as memorable as Wellington’s for she was declared champion at her first Ironman race, making her the first UK triathlete to bring home the honor.

Triathlete featured on cereal box

Hunter Kemper has by this time represented his country USA twice to the Olympic Games. To honor his contributions, he was handed the 2005 SportsMan of the Year award by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) just the prior year. 2007 was even more special for the Olympian for he became the first ever elite triathlete to grace the cover of the well-liked Wheaties cereal brand.

Competitions with considerable prize purse

Triathlon’s popularity across the United States became even more evident when in 2007, the Hy-Vee World Cup, a race sponsored by the grocery chain Hy-Vee, gave away a total of $700,000 USD, by far the largest prize purse during a one-day race.


Jon Blais

Chris McCormack

Triathlon Timeline – USA Triathlon

History of Triathlon: 2006

2006 proved to be another dynamic and eventful year for the sport of triathlon. It was when milestones within the national governing body USA Triathlon occurred. The year also saw longtime professional triathletes conquer their goals and be subsequently acknowledged for their achievements. The International Triathlon Union (ITU) undertook measures to shorten its sanctioned races during the year as well.

Kemper given highest recognition by USOC

On April 5, 2006, Hunter Kemper was given the 2005 SportsMan of the Year award by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). This makes Kemper the first ever triathlete to receive the highest recognition given by the USOC.

Hunter Kemper named 2005 SportsMan of the Year by USOC
(image via www.usatriathlon.org)

McCormack records remarkable Hawaii Ironman win

Australian Chris McCormack has been in the sport of triathlon since the mid 90s. In fact, he made himself and his native Australia proud in 1997 after becoming the first ever triathlete to win a gold each from the ITU World Championships and ITU World Cup events all within the same year.

Then a newcomer to the Hawaii Ironman race circuit, McCormack failed to finish at his first attempt at the race in 2002. The following year in 2003, he placed 59th overall. He again made a bid for the top spot in 2004 but unfortunately failed to finish once more.

In 2005, after months of training under Hawaii Ironman great Mark Allen, McCormack managed to finish sixth. Finally in 2006, he grabbed the silver medal after finishing in second, next to German Faris Al-Sultan.

ITU sets in motion shortening of its races

The year saw the International Triathlon Union commence the process to formally shorten the race course of its long established ITU Long Distance Championships.

On August 2006, the proposal to do so was officially stated as among the items to be discussed during the ITU congress in Lausanne in Switzerland the following month.

In the proposal, the ITU Long Distance Championships was recommended to be shortened to 3k-80k-20k from the longtime swim-bike-run distances of 40k-120k-30k. The ITU cited concerns over safety of long distance races such as the Ironman as one of the reasons for the move.

Said recommendation was passed in September by the ITU, though this was not without vehement opposition, particularly from triathletes around the globe who competed in the long distance races of the ITU before.

USA Triathlon celebrates milestones

By the end of the year, USA Triathlon reached more than 80,000 members. This national governing body’s sanctioned races reached more than 1,800 during the year as well, the highest by far since the organization’s founding in 1982.


Chris McCormack

ITU to “distance” itself from ultra racing?


History of Triathlon: 2005

2005 saw regular folks conquer their goal of finishing the Hawaii Ironman and as a result became a crucial part of the history of triathlon. It was also during the year that a longtime triathlete made remarkable records in the sport.

Female amputee completes Hawaii Ironman

The Hawaii Ironman race circuit has always been open to regular folks.  This is all thanks to the race’s creator Commander John Collins, who, upon passing on the organization of the Ironman to Valerie Silk in 1980, expressly stipulated that slots always be allotted to regular folks who’d like to compete.

And recreational athletes aren’t the only ones who’ve been joining. Even physically challenged folks have graced the race circuit such as the male amputee Pat Griskus who completed the race in 1984, or wheelchair sportsperson John MacLean who finished the course in 1995.

Meanwhile, in 2004, saw the first female amputee in the person of Sarah Reinertsen join the grueling endurance race. Reinertsen failed to make the bike qualifying cut-off by 15 minutes though. Not to be deterred, she underwent months of training that proved well worth it when she became the first female amputee to complete the course in 2005.

ALS-stricken triathlete’s Hawaii Ironman victory

Smitten by the multi-discipline sport, Jon Blais moved to California from his native Seekonk, Massachusetts to be nearer to the triathlon races. In 2004, Blais was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, an illness that kills the nerves that control the body’s voluntary muscle movements.

Not the type to be dissuaded, Blais signed up for and got approved to compete at the 2005 Hawaii Ironman. Though his fingers have already been severely affected by the advancing disease, Blais was able to complete the course in 16 hours, 28 minutes, and 56 seconds.

Blais became the first ALS-stricken athlete to conquer Hawaii Ironman earning him the nickname of “Blazeman”. He was also responsible for popularizing the “log-rolling” move called “Blazeman-Roll” to the finish chute as well, which many triathletes still do a few feet to the finish line to this day.

Jon Blais finishes the 2005 Hawaii Ironman
(image via feinberg.northwestern.edu)

Badmann takes her sixth gold

Natascha Badmann, as can be remembered, became the first European woman to dominate the Hawaii Ironman race in 1998. Winning the gold since then, she would only be defeated by Canada’s Lori Bowden in 1999 and 2003. Meanwhile, in 2004, she was declared the first placer when German Nina Kraft admitted to EPO use.

In 2005, Badmann, who has always been a crowd favorite for her pleasant conduct on the course, took home her sixth and last Hawaii Ironman gold, making herself and her native Switzerland proud.


Sarah Reinertsen

Jon Blais

Ironman World Championship

History of Triathlon: 2004

2004 saw the second staging of triathlon at the world’s largest multi-sport event, the Olympics. But while it returned triumphantly to the Olympic stage, triathlon’s reputation once again got marred by yet another high-profile doping scandal.

Triathlon at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games

Triathlon’s leaders got entangled in controversies in 2001 that threatened the sport’s overall status on the Olympic program. But it seems all these have been patched up as triathlon again got staged at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

On August 25, 2004, the women’s triathlon race was conducted. Kate Allen dominated 49 other female triathletes that day and took home the gold for her native Austria.

Austrian Kate Allen took home the 2004 Olympic triathlon gold
(image via www.triathlon.org)

Taking home the silver medal was Loretta Harrop. This was her second time to represent her country Australia to the Olympics. During triathlon’s inauguration game at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, she placed fifth overall. Loretta Harrop is the twin sister of Luke Harrop, the up-and-coming triathlete who was tragically killed while cycle training on a Brisbane highway in 2002.

Meanwhile, placing third was Littleton, Colorado native Susan Williams. Williams’ bronze win happens to be the first ever Olympic medal for triathlon for the United States.

The following day, August 26, the men’s triathlon race was staged. New Zealand’s Hamish Carter placed first, followed by Bevan Docherty, again from New Zealand, on second. And on third was Sven Riederer of Switzerland.

While the men’s US Olympic Triathlon Team did not take home medals from the event, “Wonder Boy” Hunter Kemper who also represented his country for the second time, managed to finish in ninth place, making him the best American finisher.

Professional triathlete confesses to doping

Barely two months after the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, sport enthusiasts again had a lot to rejoice with the holding of the most popular triathlon event, the Hawaii Ironman in October. Normann Stadler of Germany, and Nina Kraft, also of Germany, took home the gold for the men’s and women’s division, respectively, during the 2004 Ironman World Championships.

However, on November 11, the sports world was shocked when Nina Kraft admitted to knowingly using the performance enhancing drug erythropoietin or EPO weeks leading to the October 16, 2004 Hawaii Ironman competition.

Kraft confessed as, she said, she did not relish her win for she felt ashamed the entire time knowing she cheated. Kraft’s win was subsequently disqualified and Switzerland’s Natascha Badmann declared as the first placer instead.

Kraft’s doping scandal was by far the fourth such incident in the fledgling sport of triathlon. The first ever triathlete who got entangled in a similar controversy was Olivier Bernhard of Switzerland. He was subsequently cleared of the allegations after having successfully argued to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) that the nandrolone concentration was due to his body naturally producing it after excessive workout.

British Spencer Smith also got accused of nandrolone use during the 1998 Hawaii Ironman and again was consequently cleared by the CAS. Canadian Kelly Guest, on the other hand, got his reputation besmirched by similar accusations in 2002 and is working up to now to clear his name.


Triathlon at the 2004 Summer Olympics

Kraft: ‘I am going to bear all the consequences’

 Fashionable nandrolone the drug of choice

History of Triathlon: 2003

The year 2003 was witness to positive highlights in the sport of triathlon. The year also marked the first death anniversary of an up-and-coming triathlete who died from a hit-and-run accident.

Kemper takes home the gold

Olympian Hunter Kemper is known as the “Wonder Boy” of triathlon, a fitting name for such an impressive triathlete. Kemper took home the first prize at the IronKids Triathlon National Championships at the tender age of 10 and has since been inseparable from the sport. He continued his impressive first place position in the said event for five consecutive years. When he was 15 years old, he again dominated the 1992 USA Triathlon National Amateur Championships.

Though Kemper didn’t take home the gold during triathlon’s inauguration at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, he achieved the seventeenth-best finish for the men’s division. Three years later, Kemper took the first ever gold for his home country USA during the 2003 Pan American Games conducted in the Dominican Republic.

Hunter Kemper during the marathon leg of a triathlon
(image via www.usatriathlon.org)

Zemaitis becomes overall champion

A cross country and varsity swimmer during his college years, Joseph Zemaitis is no stranger to the sport of triathlon. Zemaitis set the goal to conquer the grueling Hawaii Ironman when he was only 12 years old. As soon as he hit the age of 18, he signed up for the 1998 Hawaii Ironman and flew to the Big Island to follow his longtime dream.

Incidentally at the time, Zemaitis was the youngest to have ever signed up for the race. And his efforts were well rewarded when he finished the course in less than ten hours, making him the second-best American finisher that year. He again made his country proud in 2003 when he became the Overall Amateur Champion at an Ironman race held in Langkawi, Malaysia.

Australian triathlon renamed in memory of triathlete

Luke Harrop, a native of Australia, was an emerging triathlete. He was the twin brother of Loretta Harrop, an Olympic triathlete who placed fifth overall during triathlon’s inaugural race at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

On a fateful day in January 13, 2002, Harrop was hit by a speeding car while training on Gold Coast Highway in Brisbane, Australia. The driver, Sandra Wilde, who was at the time driving a stolen vehicle, and was without a license and on bail for various offences, fled the scene and left Harrop bleeding to death.

Harrop suffered extensive head trauma and was taken off life support a day after the accident. He was 24 years old. To honor the triathlete’s legacy, the popular Australian Gold Coast Triathlon was renamed the Gold Coast Triathlon – Luke Harrop Memorial in 2003.

Snowsill snags the gold

Emma Snowsill, another Australian native, emerged as the champion at the 2003 Queenstown ITU Triathlon World Championships. Certainly not a stranger to the grueling race, Snowsill first made herself and her country proud when she brought home the gold during the 2000 Perth ITU Triathlon World Championships in the 16-20 age group category. She was voted as Australia’s Triathlete of the Year 2000 as well. Snowsill was Luke Harrop’s girlfriend at the time of Harrop’s tragic accident.


Hunter Kemper Athlete Bio

Joe Zemaitis

List of professional cyclists who died during a race

Anger over 18 months’ parole for driver of stolen car who killed triathlete

Focus on Emma’s win, not Luke’s death: Harrop

Woman Charged in Luke Harrop’s Death

Gentle Reminder In Memory Of Luke Harrop

Emma Snowsill, Loretta Harrop’s special bond

History of Triathlon: 1999

Preparations for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games were already in full swing in 1999. In the meantime, the sanctioning body that has been greatly instrumental in finally getting triathlon approved by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) celebrated a crucial milestone during the year. Controversies around the sport’s drug testing mechanisms arose in 1999 as well.

10th anniversary of the ITU

The International Triathlon Union or ITU was established in April of 1989 by 30 triathlon-representing nations. Since the sport did not have an official international governing body, which in turn was preventing it from achieving medal status in the Olympics, the ITU was formed to consolidate all efforts towards triathlon’s inclusion in the Olympic program. ITU’s principal thrust has been achieved with triathlon finally getting included in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

Team USA chooses triathlete to carry the flag

In July 1999, Team USA met to determine who will carry the country’s flag during the Opening Ceremonies of the 13th Pan American Games. Team USA athletes nominate their choice and captains from each sport then cast their respective votes. That year, the honor went to Karen Smyers.

Triathlete Karen Smyers was USA’s flag-bearer during the Opening Ceremonies of the 13th Pan American Games
(image via enduranceplanet.com)

Smyers, as can be remembered, took home the gold for the United States during triathlon’s first appearance in the Pan American Games in 1995. And on July 23, 1999, Smyers led the 704-strong Team USA during the games’ opening ceremonies in the Winnipeg Stadium, now known as the Canad Inns Stadium in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Controversy over Ironman disqualification

It was not until 1985 that Hawaii Ironman became a professional competition wherein elite athletes could compete for prize money. And until the Ironman brand got sold to the now-owner of the race World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) in 1990, there was no drug testing mechanism in place.

Fast-forward to 1998 when England’s Spencer Smith competed in the Hawaii Ironman, who placed 5th overall in the USA Triathlon-sanctioned race. Prior to the race, Smith underwent a routine drug testing as required by the International Triathlon Union (ITU), the international governing body to which the USA Triathlon is affiliated.

Smith was informed by his national federation, the British Triathlon Association (BTA), that the lab results for his Sample A urine turned up positive for nandrolone, a prohibited performance enhancing drug. Sample B, which was taken on the same day as Sample A, was then tested on December 1998. This came up positive as well, prompting the USA Triathlon to finally disqualify him.

On March 29, 1999, Smith appeared before the BTA’s Disciplinary Panel to appeal the case. Smith won this and the BTA dismissed USA Triathlon’s charges of doping for lack of evidence.

USA Triathlon then appealed to the ITU Appeals Board on June 9, 1999, citing that the BTA cannot interfere with the case as the 1998 Hawaii Ironman which Smith competed in was not under BTA’s jurisdiction.

Smith then sought assistance from the Supreme Court of British Colombia, citing, firstly, that the USA Triathlon’s charges and subsequent appeals were baseless. Secondly, that the ITU Doping and Appeals Board cannot hear the case as it is not under their jurisdiction. All the same, on September 21, 1999, a three-person panel from ITU Doping and Appeals Board met, and dismissed USA Triathlon’s appeal for lack of evidence.

The USA Triathlon, citing section 5.11 of ITU’s Doping Control Rules which states “An athlete or National Federation that loses a hearing or an appeal to the ITU Executive Board Doping Hearings and Appeal Board has the right to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport”, then filed an appeal with the Lausanne, Switzerland-based CAS to validate the offence and therefore mete out the two-year competition ban on Smith.


History of Triathlon Timeline

Karen Smyers’ Career Highlights

Flag Bearer “Crushed” By Selection

If Valerie Silk Had Gotten Her Way, There May Never Have Been an Ironman

Ironman World Championship: Drug Testing For Dummies

Spencer Smith article archive

Collection of Sports-Related Case-Law

History of Triathlon: 1998

1998 was a memorable year for the sport of triathlon, specifically for the Hawaii Ironman World Championships. The race was attended by Ironman’s original creators. Astounding race records were also made that year.

Ironman’s royal couple returns to the race

Commander John Collins and wife Judy have always wanted to stay close to Ironman but were unable to. But 1998 was a special year as it was Ironman’s 20th anniversary. They accepted Valerie Silk’s invitation and the Collins devised a triathlon in Portobelo in Panama in 1997 to prepare for the race. And in 1998, Ironman’s royal couple as well as their son Michael participated in the race.

First ever European woman takes home the gold

1998 was the year Natascha Badmann won her first ever gold in the Hawaii Ironman. Representing her native Switzerland, she waved and smiled to spectators throughout the race thus becoming an instant crowd favorite for her positive attitude and friendly demeanor.

Natascha Badmann crossing the finish line (image via sportsillustrated.cnn.com)

Chris Legh races again

Australian elite triathlete Chris Legh has been participating in triathlon races since 1989. In the mid to the late 90s, Legh was among the well renowned Australian professional triathletes and held the championship title for the country’s long- and Ironman-distance triathlon for five years.

Legh’s participation in the Ironman of the prior year was quite memorable though. Minutes to the finish line, Legh lost consciousness due to bowel collapse caused by severe dehydration. He had to undergo emergency surgery shortly after the race to take out a part of his large intestine that had turned gangrenous.

Fortunately, Legh recovered and again took to the Hawaii Ironman race in 1998. Despite some bike mechanical problems he encountered, Legh remarkably finished 6th overall with a time of 8 hours, 40 minutes, and 45 seconds.

Youngest Hawaii Ironman competitor

Hawaii Ironman has long attracted athletes of all ages. For instance, the 1992 Hawaii Ironman saw Charlie Futrell successfully complete the demanding endurance race in 15 hours, 35 minutes, and 23 seconds, placing him 1st in the US and 3rd overall in the 70-75 age group category.

1998, meanwhile, was when Joseph Zemaitis signed up for the race. Zemaitis, then 18 years old, was the captain for the Lake Forest College’s varsity swim and cross country teams. Zemaikis, at 12 years old, set a goal to conquer Hawaii Ironman, which he successfully did in 1998.

He was the youngest competitor to ever join the race, completing the course in 9 hours, 57 minutes, and 10 seconds. This garnered him the honor of being the second-best American finisher, and placed him 8th overall for the 18-24 age group category.


An Officer and a Gentleman – John Collins

Natascha Badmann

Sports Illustrated – Faces In The Crowd

Chris Legh’s Story: Injury Lessons That Apply To Every Triathlete

Kona Ironman Triathlon World Championships – 1998

Mechanical Problem on Alii Drive, Part 20

Joe Zemaitis