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As new names and faces enter the professional triathlon world each year, so too do legends exit the swim, bike, run zeitgeist, ready for their next adventure.
Pandemic-related racing delays caused many triathletes—both pro and amateur—to reconsider their timelines for goals like qualifying for the Ironman World Championship, racing Challenge Roth, or, outside of the tri world, having or growing one’s family.
While these former stars of the sport won’t toe the line of a professional triathlon again (anytime soon, anyway), we remember them for pushing their limits and elevating the sport they dedicated countless hours and years to.
Five-time Olympian Nicola Spirig was respected and feared by her competitors across a multi-decade career. Spirig, who is a mom of three and a lawyer, ended her run as a professional triathlete after participating in the sub-8 project and then winning a local race in Locarno, Switzerland over the summer. Spirig is remaining active in sport, running half marathons and smaller races for fun.
ITU pro Eli Hemming called it quits with triathlon at the end of 2021 after an amazing career – all before the age of 30. In 2019, Hemming nabbed first place at the ITU World Cup after coming in second at the World Cup in 2018. In 2017, he was the U-23 U.S. National Champion, as well. Hemming, whose background is in track and field, is currently racing ultra-distance trail running events and has been quick to make a name for himself, landing on the podium at multiple races across the nation thus far.
Sarah Piampiano was known for her grit and “get ‘er done” attitude when it came to racing. Piampiano’s accolades included multiple podium finishes at 70.3s, a second place finish at IM Western Australia in 2019, and a win at Ironman Brazil that same year. Piampiano gave birth to her son in 2021 and made the decision to retire shortly after. Piampiano is now a real estate agent in the Boulder, Colorado, area and can found training as an elite runner, as well.
Two-time Olympian Tyler Butterfield put in his retirement notice in mid-2022 after an epic career. Butterfield was fifth at Kona in 2015 and seventh in 2017. Butterfield is a notable Bermudan who dominated triathlon – right alongside the reigning ITU World Cup champ, fellow Bermudan Flora Duffy.
Linsey Corbin was known for her ever-present friendliness and positive outlook on life. Corbin was slated to race her 14th and final Ironman World Championship in 2022, but an injury forced her into early retirement. Corbin’s podiums include wins at Ironman Wisconsin and multiple top-10 finishes in Kona.
Joe Gambles was a consistent podium finisher in both 70.3 and Iron-distance triathlon. He is a five-time 70.3 Boulder champion and current course record holder. Today, Gambles is a coach to both pros and amateurs and can be found racing local Boulder, Colorado, events like the Bolder Boulder.
Non Stanford is an Olympian and multi-time ITU podium finisher and Super League competitor as well as the 2022 ITU European Triathlon champion. Stanford is now taking up a coaching role with British Triathlon at the Leeds Triathlon Centre.
Helen Jenkins was one of the most successful draft-legal British female racers, having competed at the 2008, 2012, and 2016 Olympics (placing fifth in 2012) and achieving more ITU/WTCS podiums than any other female British triathlete—as well as success at long-course events.
Josiah Middaugh (kind of)
Was 2022 the last time we saw off-road star Josiah Middaugh toe the start line? The most-decorated U.S. athlete seems to be passing the baton to son Sullivan, who is blazing a path to the top of the podium at both XTERRA and draft-legal triathlon as part of USA Triathlon’s Project Podium. The proud papa now seems to be taking a much more chill approach to racing, telling the Vail Daily, “I do feel like I’m somewhat retired and just having fun with it now. I don’t have the same self-imposed expectations. I’m happy to be anywhere near my peak fitness and see what I can do and how it shakes out on race day.”
RELATED: Josiah Middaugh’s Last Lap
Heather Jackson (kind of)
Heather Jackson’s shock of platinum blonde hair and high-wattage smile made her one of the most noticeable and most approachable pro triathletes on the long-distance circuit over the past decade. Jackson was the first American to finish on the Ironman World Championship podium in 2016, breaking a decade-long deficit for the U.S. Jackson made the call to make the 2022 Ironman World Champs in Kona her last; though she hasn’t officially said she’s totally done with triathlon, she is now focusing on gravel racing and trail running.
Sebastian Kienle (kind of)
There is a big caveat with putting Sebastian Kienle on this list because he is not officially retired – yet. Kienle announced in January 2022 that 2023 would be his final year racing as a professional triathlete. He noted that his young son is now his priority and that he wants to spend more time with his kiddo. Kienle is a longtime fan-favorite due to his no-nonsense but warm demeanor which—along with his bike prowess—earned him the title of Ironman World Champion in 2014 and 70.3 World Champion in 2012 and 2013.