Inside Triathlon’s 10 Most Influential People For 2012: #8 Felix Walchshöfer

Germany’s Felix Walchshöfer, the CEO of Challenge, takes the number 8 spot on our list of most influential people of 2012.

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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 #9 and #10 here, find out who #8 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.

#8: Felix Walchshöfer

“Life of the Party”

The flagship race of the Challenge Family triathlon schedule is Challenge Roth, in Germany, where sub-eight-hour performances at the iron distance are routinely recorded in front of a crowd estimated to be 200,000 people strong. Germany’s Felix Walchshöfer, the CEO of Challenge, will host 10 major events in 2013 and is arguably the only serious competitive threat to the World Triathlon Corporation.

The ever-smiling Walchshöfer took over the family business started by his father, Herbert, and he continues to create welcoming, memorable and exciting race environments for all the athletes who compete at his events—he doles out endless hugs, stages massive fireworks displays for final finishers and allows athletes to cross the line with their children in tow.

Walchshöfer has long wielded influence outside of the States, and this past year he made his first stride into the WTC’s home territory by booting Ironman Canada out of its longtime race site in Penticton, British Columbia. Usurping this historic location sent a clear message to WTC: Challenge Family is ready for a fight.

“Ultimately we will have more races in North America,” Walchshöfer told, explaining that they intend to do that by making long-term commitments to host cities that will share their vision for the sport. “We want to come to the U.S. For us it has to be a perfect fit.”

Path to Influence

1982 | Detleft Kuhnel (friend of Herbert Walchshöfer, Felix’s father) is the first German to race in the Hawaii Ironman.

1984 | Kuhnel stages triathlon in Roth, Germany, which ultimately gets the notice of the Hawaii Ironman’s race director, Valerie Silk, and is granted a license. The race becomes Ironman Roth.

2001 | Kuhnel sells the race to Herbert Walchshöfer. The same year, the WTC license is up for renewal and is not renewed. Despite the loss of the WTC license, Walchshöfer builds the race into a week-long festival with a rock concert.

2007 | Herbert Walchshöfer dies from lung disease. The night before he passed, he told his son that to install thorough credibility he would have to complete a Challenge race. Felix went on to race Challenge Wanaka twice.

2012 | After losing Challenge Cairns in the WTC’s acquisition of USM Events in March, the Challenge Family announces Challenge Penticton in August, taking control of the site of the longtime classic Ironman Canada.

Guess who’s #7 on our list based on his Path to Influence:

1995 | Participates in his first multisport event, the Worchester Youth Triathlon in Worchester, Mass., at the age of 10.

2007 | Receives B.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT. Takes job at Specialized in November. A new commitment to triathlon begins to “resonate” at Specialized.

2010 | Specialized commits to the Shiv project and a global triathlon team.

2012 | Specialized bikes are gaining popularity among triathletes—of the top 10 brands from the Kona bike counts, Specialized made the biggest jump between 2011 and 2012.

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