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Countdown To Kona: Moss & McCartney (February 1982)

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With the Ironman World Championship set to take place 27 days from today, we take a look at back at each race from the past three decades. Today, we look back at the showdown between Julie Moss and Kathleen McCartney. All of the following photos and text are taken from the book, “30 Years of The Ironman Triathlon World Championship” by Bob Babbitt.

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Written by: Don Norcross

To etch a place in the public’s psyche, a sport needs a defining moment – a play, a game, or a statement that captures national attention. In baseball, you can argue that it was Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier. Or Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Hear ‘Round The World.” In football, the Jets’ stunning victory over the Baltimore Colts, guaranteed days earlier by Joe Namath, comes to mind.

In triathlon, there is no debate. The sport struck a chord in the public’s conscience on February 6, 1982 when Julie Moss, a 23-year-old college student working on a senior thesis, stumbled, fell and crawled to the finish line at Ironman Hawaii. Television caught it all, a few moments that changed the fledging sport forever.

We watched her huge lead evaporate, watched as Kathleen McCartney stole her glory, passing Moss 15 feet shy of the finish line to win the grueling event. But Moss did not quit. While her body gave out, her will did not. She crawled through the darkness, then lunged with her left hand, touching far more than the finish line.

“This is our moment,” says Bob Babbitt, co-publisher of Competitor Magazine. “It told viewers Ironman wasn’t just about winning. It was about getting to the line.”

To see the complete Countdown To Kona series click here.