Inside Triathlon’s 10 Most Influential People For 2012: #6 Dan Empfield

Dan Empfield first raced the Hawaii Ironman in 1981 and continues to be a part of triathlon’s DNA.

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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 7, 8, 9 and 10 here, find out who #6 is below and check back throughout the next two weeks 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.

#6: Dan Empfield

“The Oracle”

There’s little mystery where triathlon industrialists go to for insight into the current issues facing multisport and advice on how the future may unfold: Dan Empfield, publisher of It is here that Empfield—inventor and iconoclast who is inarguably part of triathlon’s DNA—serves up his take on both the opportunities and threats the sport is squaring off with in the new millennium. Empfield first raced the Hawaii Ironman in 1981. By the end of the ’80s, he had bulldozed into business with the creation of the triathlon industry itself by introducing sport-specific designs in wetsuits and bicycles from his upstart company, Quintana Roo. In addition to Slowtwitch, Empfield in the past 10 years has created the F.I.S.T. triathlon bike fit system and became a founding director on the board of Triathlon Business International (formerly known as Tri America).

But it’s through Slowtwitch that the core fanatics in the triathlon world continue to look for Empfield’s insight into the future, which, according to Empfield, is an exceptionally bright one.

“I anticipate triathlon will continue to grow,” he says. “In the 1980s, I didn’t know how big it was going to get. Back then we used to think of triathlon within the prism of competition—that the only thing that validated triathlon was the weekend competition.”  Empfield believes triathlon has transcended the early days. “I now compare triathlon to activities that are self-validating, like tennis or surfing—sports in which you do not need competitions in order for the sport to prosper.” Empfield considers himself an example. “I didn’t race this year. I may not race next year. But I swim, bike, run and mountain bike. Those are my four sports.”

Empfield says that this will be good for race directors as well as triathlon in general. “The thing is that as a sport we’ve done everything right: We’ve welcomed new people in and kept the barrier of entry low. Tri is both very easy to do and very compelling as an activity alone or in groups. It’s easy and approachable and accessible. The world is your oyster.”

Path to Influence:

1981 | Races in the Hawaii Ironman.

1987 | Launches Quintana Roo and puts the first triathlon wetsuit on the market.

1989 | Releases the first triathlon-specific racing bike.

1995 | Sells QR to Saucony and remains in charge of the bike division until 1999.

1999 | Launches

2003 | Launches F.I.S.T., a bike fit system for triathletes.

2010 | Becomes a founding member of Triathlon America, rebranded in 2012 as Triathlon Business International.

Guess who’s #5 on our list based on his Path to Influence:

1981 | Ironman is first broadcast on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.”

1990 | Ironman moves from ABC to NBC.

1992 | His first year working as a cameraman on the NBC production.

2000 | Takes charge of producing the show for NBC.

2003 | His production of the Ironman show for NBC wins three Emmys.

2012 | He leads the Ironman productions crew to win its 16th Emmy award for “Outstanding Camerawork.”

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