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The fifth class of Hall of Fame inductees included iconic Julie Moss, paratriathlete Jim MacLaren and age-grouper Missy LeStrange.
Three of triathlon’s most influential and iconic stars were inducted into the fifth class of the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame Thursday at the Bahia Resort Hotel in San Diego. Almost 200 people showed up to celebrate the triathlon careers of Jim MacLaren, Missy LeStrange and Julie Moss.
Jim MacLaren is considered by many to be the forefather of the sport of paratriathlon. After his left leg was amputated below the knee following an accident in 1985, he finish the 1989 Hawaii Ironman in a time of 10:42. A second accident left MacLaren a quadriplegic. A fundraiser for MacLaren following the second accident led to the creation of the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), which has raised more than $40 million to help disabled athletes stay in the game of life through sport. The winner of the ESPN’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award in 2005, MacLaren passed away in August 2010. The growth of paratriathlon and its inclusion in the 2016 Paralympic Games is a testament to his legacy.
Bob Babbitt, co-founder of CAF, opened the presentation for MacLaren, saying, “He changed perceptions of what you could do on a prosthetic leg.” MacLaren didn’t want to just finish triathlons: “He wanted to kick ass and take names. … Through triathlons, we’ve raised over $40 million—and it started with Jim MacLaren.”
John MacLaren, Jim’s brother, accepted the award on his behalf, joking, “It’s a special thing to get a huge round of applause for something you’ve never done.” John talked about how much triathlon meant to his brother: “Jim was part of a community with all the people in this room. … I would watch people listen to Jim tell his story, and they’d start to change. … He just told a story and people would get connected to him. They’d connect to Jim first, and then they’d connect to themselves. It was so impressive to me.”
Age-group athlete Missy LeStrange was introduced to the sport of triathlon by her Master swim coach, Dave Scott, while she was a student at the University of California at Davis. She went on to post a decorated career following her first race in 1980. The three-time USA Triathlon Masters Triathlete of the Year honoree won 14 age-group titles at the Ironman World Championship (including 10 consecutive wins), two USAT Age Group National Championship titles and an Olympic-distance age-group world title. LeStrange also served as a member of the USA Triathlon Age-Group Committee from 1992-97 and helped develop a number of organizational programs empowering youth, women, seniors and paratriathletes. She is currently a member of the USA Triathlon History Project.
LeStrange joked that she went to Kona for the Hawaii Ironman for a vacation every year: “I go to Hawaii every year because I like to snorkel.” In her impressive age-group racing career, you almost always saw her smiling. “Winning was never everything,” she says. “It was always the goal to go out there, do the best you can and always cross the finish line smiling.”
Julie Moss is known for her crawl to the finish line of the 1982 Ironman World Championship, which had been broadcast on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.” Determined to finish second in the race after collapsing 15 feet short of the finish after she was passed by winner Kathleen McCartney, Moss inspired countless people to race triathlon during the early days of the sport. After racing competitively as an elite, she continued to contribute to the sport as a broadcaster and motivational speaker. She returned to compete in Kona last year alongside McCartney to celebrate the 30th anniversary of this memorable moment. Moss and McCartney also recently collaborated to form a motivational speaking company, Iron Icons: Inspirational Speakers.
Special guest Alistair Brownlee, the Olympic gold medalist, joked to Moss that her crawl to the finish “was the first piece of triathlon footage I saw. I don’t know why I did one actually.”
Sports broadcaster Jim Lampley, who witnessed in person Moss’ crawl to the finish when he was covering the race for ABC, introduced Moss at the banquet. “We got back to New York [with the footage of the race] and knew we had the most extraordinary thing,” he said. “People in edit rooms were blown away. … We knew we had to get it on the air exactly the right way.”
Moss spoke about how much impact her 1982 Kona race had on her life: “The girl who always just showed up and got by was being transformed. … I was being transformed into someone who felt like I deserved to be thinking of myself as someone who was good at something.”
The USA Triathlon Hall of Fame was founded in 2008, and this year’s class brings the total number of inductees to 22. Learn more at Usatriathlon.org.