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Triathletes love a good origin story, like Chrissie Wellington exploding onto the scene with her first win at her rookie Kona appearance in 2007, or Lionel Sanders’ journey from addict to world-class athlete. But Tim DeBoom’s story is nothing spectacular – just a normal guy doing good, old-fashioned hard work. And that’s exactly the way he likes it.
“I started as a true age-group athlete from Iowa and slowly worked my way up,” says DeBoom. “It was an unpredicted path with lots of setbacks, but I never gave up. I believed in myself.”
DeBoom remembers every race, every challenge, and every setback. He remembers how each one of those experiences fueled his fire – every day, he aimed to be just a little bit better than the day before. He’s proud of his slow progression through the age-group ranks, to earning his pro card, to becoming a bonafide threat in every race he entered.
But when he looks back on his career, his 2001 victory at the Ironman World Championship tops the highlight reel. Less than one month after the devastating 9/11 attacks on U.S. soil, DeBoom represented his country proudly as he raced to an emotional 8:31:18 finish.
“Running down Ali’i Drive in first place is what every triathlete on the planet dreams about, and I’m no different,” says DeBoom. He returned to the island in 2002 to claim a back-to-back victory, a feat that had previously only been accomplished by legends Dave Scott and Mark Allen. In the years since, DeBoom has remained the last American to win Kona.
By setting his sights on improvement each day, DeBoom cemented his status in the ranks of Scott and Allen. This year, DeBoom will be inducted into the Ironman Hall of Fame.
“It’s not something you tend to think about in the midst of a career, but now, having some time to reflect and knowing the commitment and passion I put into my career, it’s very fulfilling to be selected and to have my name next to some of the very people I admired during my career,” says DeBoom.
Though he retired from professional racing in 2012, the legend is still very much a part of the triathlon community. DeBoom works as a personal trainer and coach in Boulder, CO, where he helps others reap the benefits of hard work, Tim DeBoom style.