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Inside Triathlon’s 10 Most Influential People For 2012: #3 Chrissie Wellington

While she didn't race in 2012 and has officially retired, Chrissie Wellington still has the triathlon community following her every move.

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They’re inspirational, powerful and changing the sport of triathlon from the inside out.

The staff at Inside Triathlon asked: Which 10 people had the most influence on triathlon in the United States in 2012?

Our list, ranked in order of impact, was chosen based on 2012 happenings—not based on influence since the creation of triathlon. It reflects the group of people who are directing the future of the sport, are changing the general perception of the sport—positively or negatively—or are molding the minds within the sport. Read about 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 here, find out who #3 is below and check back throughout the week to find out our complete list. Don’t want to wait? The complete list is in the Jan/Feb 2013 issue of Inside Triathlon, on newsstands now.

#3: Chrissie Wellington
“Community Activist”

When considering Chrissie Wellington’s impact on triathlon, you have to recall what she was doing before she started winning every Ironman she lined up for. Wellington was managing a sanitation project in Nepal, in line with her stated life purpose for helping others via hands-on sustainable development projects where she knew she was making a measurable difference. But her talent and toughness were revealing enough even then, in high-altitude mountain bike rides, so much so that she felt compelled to see what she could do in triathlon. As it turned out, quite a bit.

She won her first Ironman World Championship in her first try, in 2007, and she now has scrapped her way to four such world titles, along with a slew of other wins, including a startlingly fast 8:18 at Challenge Roth in 2011. She has never lost an iron-distance triathlon. But in award speeches and in answering questions at press conferences, Wellington has long made clear her personal intention to wed her achievements in triathlon to the missions involving the empowerment of women and the poor. Her status in the world of triathlon is as strong as her ability to communicate. Ask Wellington how she would like to see the world of triathlon evolve, and she’ll emphatically tick off a list of problems and a list of possible solutions. Says Wellington, “The sport will hopefully become more egalitarian in the demography of participants. It is still principally a white, middle-class sport dominated by those with a high disposable income.” With the same spirit and intelligence that Wellington once put to use executing sustainability projects, she now has a working list of ideas she intends to carry out to open triathlon to a more diverse spectrum of the population. While she took 2012 off from racing, she still has the triathlon community following her every move as she participates in charity fundraisers, makes appearances at women’s triathlon groups and signs copies of her book.

Path to Influence

2004 | Races her first triathlon in Eton, England, a sprint race, finishing third.

2006 | Wins her age group and posts the fastest female time at the ITU World Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland, in a time of 2:17:32.

2007 | In October, during her first year with Team TBB and coach Brett Sutton, wins her first Ironman World Championship title in Hawaii.

2009 | In winning her third Hawaii Ironman, breaks the course record in 8:54:02.

2011 | Breaks the women’s iron-distance world record with an 8:18:13 finish at Challenge Roth, following the effort with her fourth win at the Hawaii Ironman in October.

2012 | In January, announces a break from competition to focus on dedicating more time to charity and promoting her new book, A Life Without Limits.

Guess who’s #2 on our list based on his Path to Influence:

1990 | National sprint triathlon champion at the age of 16.

1996 | Diagnosed with stage 3 testicular cancer.

1999 | Wins first Tour de France.

2005 | Wins seventh Tour de France and announces retirement.

2009 |  Returns to the Tour de France.

2011 | Announces retirement from competitive cycling “for good.”

2012 | Announces quest to race at the Ironman World Championship and races several Ironman 70.3’s. On Aug. 12, declines to fight USADA doping charges, accepts lifetime ban and is stripped of his seven Tour de France wins. In September, wins the SuperFrog Triathlon in San Diego 10 days before USADA releases its evidence against him, tipping public sentiment against him.