The stars were out in force for the World Series final in Edmonton – and it wasn’t just the current crop of elite racers taking centre stage.
The International Triathlon Union also seized the opportunity to honour seven legends of the sport as part of its 25th year anniversary celebrations.
Included in the inaugural Hall of Fame was Britain’s four-time Olympic distance world champion Simon Lessing.
“Our sport is a young sport but the benchmark is 25 years and what that means is we legitimately do have a history,” said the 43-year-old. “It’s important for a lot of the new athletes coming into triathlon to realise that and not just focus on what they do specifically but how the sport got to where it is today.”
Mark Allen, the first ITU world champion in Avignon, France in 1989 – the prelude to the first of his six Ironman world titles later in the year – was also inducted. Australia’s Greg Welch, the 1990 ITU world champion, completed the men’s line-up.
They were joined by New Zealand’s Erin Baker, also first across the line in 1989, Australia’s double world champion Emma Carney and fellow two-time winner Karen Smyers from the USA.
Les McDonald, the ITU President from 1989 – 2008 was honoured with a lifetime achievement, after being heralded as the driving force behind triathlon’s inclusion in the Olympic Games.
“It’s a fitting time to be inducted,” said Allen. “I was inspired to get into sports watching the 1968 Olympics and the 1,500m swimmers and thought: ‘How can they swim that far? I became a swimmer, saw Ironman on television got into that in 1982, and then won in Avignon in 1989. Now it’s come full circle and it’s great to be honoured for my 15 years of racing.”
“It is a great privilege to induct these nominees into the first Hall of Fame,” said ITU President and IOC Member Marisol Casado. “They set a standard of excellence from the very beginning that was crucial to the development of both triathlon and ITU. Without them, we would not enjoy the global level of exposure and Olympic standard of competition that we have today.”
The inductees were narrowed down from a shortlist of 25. Those nominated for the men’s and women’s categories were selected based on the criteria that each has a championship title in one or more ITU World Championships, Olympic Games, Paralympic Games, World Cup Series, and/or ITU World Rankings.
The Lifetime Achievement Nominees were selected based on their extraordinary, long-term contributions off the field of play or through an exceptional contribution to ITU and the sport of triathlon.
Full list of inductees…
Erin Baker (NZL) – ITU World Champion (1989), 3 x ITU World Cup wins
Karen Smyers (USA) – 2 x ITU World Champion (1990, 1995), ITU Long Distance World Champion (1996), 7 ITU World Cup wins, ITU World Cup Series winner (1991)
Emma Carney (AUS) -2 x ITU World Champion (1994, 1997), 19 ITU World Cup wins, 3 x ITUWorld Cup Series winner (1995, 1996, 1997)
Mark Allen (USA) – First ITU World Champion, Multiple ITU Long Distance and World Cup winner
Simon Lessing (GBR) – 4 x ITU World Champion (1992, 1995, 1996, 1998), Long-Distance Triathlon World Champion (1995), 7 x ITU World Cup wins, Olympian
Greg Welch (AUS) -ITU World Champion (1990). ITU World Cup Series winner (1991), ITUDuathlon World Champion (1993), ITU World Long Distance Champion (1996)
Les McDonald (CAN) – ITU President (1989-2008), Triathlon Canada President (1984-1996),
Largely credited with adding triathlon to the Olympic Games.
Image: Delly Carr/triathlon.org