Modern triathlon may be a comparatively young sport, but no doubt it’s been graced by some of the most remarkable pioneer triathletes the world has ever seen since its inception nearly forty years prior in 1974. And one of these astounding triathletes is Mike Pigg.
Who is Mike Pigg?
Mike Pigg grew up and to this day still lives in Northern California, near the birth place of the sport of triathlon. When he was 10 years old, he got into swimming and was active in the sport for four years. After that, he participated in cross-country running well into his second year in college.
Not fully decided what career path to take, and after having watched Dave Scott win the 1983 Hawaii Ironman, he decided to go full time as a professional triathlete. His typical work week would include training rides of at least 225 miles, running from 30 to 50 miles, as well as swimming from 15,000 t 25,000 yards.
Though trained in both swimming and running, incidentally, these are not the sporting disciplines that he is best known for. During the peak of his success in triathlon in the 1980s, he was especially feared for his power on the bike.
Mike Pigg at the first ITU Triathlon World Cup Series
Like every triathlete who truly loves the sport, all of his competitions are memorable for him. Of course, there are select races that he performed quite notably in. Arguably one of the most memorable was at the first ever ITU Triathlon World Cup Series in 1991.
It is crucial to remember that triathlon was then barely seventeen years old. During this stage in the sport, triathlon’s main movers were working furiously to get it into the Olympic program. And staging the event in 1991 was to prove to the International Olympic Committee that the sport, though quite new, was backed by an efficient system and that it was practiced by a considerable number of people worldwide.
Mike Pigg’s dominance during this race was particularly special for it was when numerous triathletes from different countries participated in. His winning of the race, touted by triathletes themselves as one of the world’s toughest race course, was astounding as it not only proved his mettle as an endurance athlete, but it also cemented the United States’ ascendancy over the sport.
Hawaii Ironman endeavors
Prior to his ITU Triathlon World Cup Series win in 1991, he was already a regular competitor at the Hawaii Ironman in Kailua-Kona. In fact, he took 7th place in his first ever race in the island in 1985. Determined to get to the top, he trained furiously, and from 7th, improved his position to 4th, and finally to 2nd in 1988.
However, while he was swimming, biking, and running to the top, he unfortunately caught a stomach infection that severely affected his performance. Though this was the case, he nevertheless set to his Hawaii Ironman trainings for the upcoming 1989 competition. Though struggling during the race for being unable to digest food on the fly, he still managed to finish 15th. He would take three years off to recover from the affliction. His return and subsequent 16th place finish at the 1993 Hawaii Ironman was what caused him to finally let go of his Ironman championship bid.
Olympic Distance Triathlon endeavors
Though he no longer raced at the Hawaii Ironman due to his physical maladies, he continued dominating Olympic distance and off-road triathlons. These races were more to his liking for they were not as physically draining as the ones done in Kailua-Kona. He would go on to join more than 150 races and would win practically half of all these. And during his 17-year stint as a professional triathlete, he would receive the US Olympic Committee Male Triathlete of the Year award from 1993 through 1996.
For a great podcast interview with Mike Pigg, visit the “Legends of Triathlon” podcast.