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15 Kona greats of all time: Dave Scott

Just who are the greatest Ironman World Championship triathletes ever? We have argued, debated and discussed the many contenders, and come up with our top 15 Kona greats of all time - do you agree with our choices?

1. Dave Scott

  • Ironman World Champion 1980, 1982 (Oct), 1983, 1984, 1986 & 1987
  • Ironman World Championships runner up 1982 (Feb), 1989 & 1994

Six-time Ironman World Champion, coach, guru, inspiration, influence, innovator, statesman, Iron War protagonist... Dave Scott has been a towering presence in triathlon since the dawn of the sport. His rip-roaring Kona victories and epic battles with Mark Allen have all have gone down in triathlon folklore. Quite simply, he's our number one all-time Kona great.

Born on 4 January 1954, Dave Scott grew up in California with a relentless thirst for sport. Scott’s first triathlon was in 1976, when came second at the Turkey Triathlon in San Francisco.

His Ironman World Championship journey began in 1978 when Ironman creator John Collins handed him a flyer for the second ever Hawaii race after he finished ninth at the Waikiki Roughwater Swim.

His interest was ignited but it wasn’t until Barry McDermott’s famous account of the 1979 race in Sports Illustrated that made him vow to return to Hawaii for the 1980 race.

And he did, and obliterated the competition, winning by over an hour and becoming the first man to go under 10 hours (9:24:33). The Man nickname was born.

After missing the race in 1981 he went on to be unbeaten at Hawaii until 1989 (though he boycotted the 1985 event due to the lack of a prize purse and missed 1988’s through injury).

The 1989 race proved to be one of the mosr memorable the sport has ever known. 35-year-old Scott produced a 2:41hr marathon on the way to smashing his course record by 18mins with a time of 8:10:13. Unfortunately for him, though, Allen – five years his junior – had matched him every stroke, pedal and stride for 223km before breaking free with 3km to go to win his first Kona title at the eighth time of asking.

But, looking back, Scott says, “Coming across the line, I thought, ‘Damn, ‘I hate to lose this one’. In retrospect, it was a stellar day for both of us. Over the years, the numbers that we did have stood the test of time. And if we had the faster equipment the athletes have today, we would’ve gone helluva lot faster.”

Scott’s grip on the Ironman Hawaii title may have ended on that unforgettable day, now known as the Iron War, but his legacy lives on.

Since he retired from elite racing, Scott has become an elite coach (his athletes have included Chrissie Wellington, Rachel Joyce, Eneko Llanos and his son Drew, a rising American star of Ironman), a motivational speaker, a certifier of coaches, commentator and all-round inspiration.

220 SAYS:  In our opinion Dave Scott has to rank as the greatest Ironman Hawaii triathlete of all time, because he almost single-handedly brought Ironman into a competitive era. Before he raced the 1980 Ironman Hawaii the course record was over 11 hours, and competitors had to race with medics and support crews on hand because they were unsure if completion was even possible. Scott completed the 1980 Ironman in 9hrs 24mins, and in doing so not only destroyed the rest of the field but actually proved the distance could be 'raced’ over as opposed to just being completed (By the time Scott had won his 6th title in 1987 his course record stood at 8hrs 28, and he finished the 1989 race under a minute behind Mark Allen in 8hrs10. 

 If you consider the equipment Scott was using and the relatively small pool of pro long-course athletes to challenge him at the time, his achievements are phenomenal. The times Scott was achieving in Kona are rarely bettered today, and were only matched by Mark Allen and Scott Tinley when he was at his peak. All this along with his longevity (he finished 5th at Kona in 1996 aged 42) makes him fully deserving of the title greatest Kona triathlete of all time.

Much of this copy comes from Triathlon! by 220's Matt Baird, available here


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