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Countdown To Kona: Whack A Mole (1988)

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With the Ironman World Championship set to take place 21 days from today, we take a look at back at each race from the past three decades. Today, we go back to 1988 and the first year Paula Newby-Fraser dominated the women’s race. 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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You are standing in a typical I-wish-I-had-200-quarters arcade, one of those fun centers that blips, bleeps screetches and thousands of decibels of sound. The games surrounding you are classics, like Laser Karate and Nuke the Nerds from Neptune. Win often enough and you get to choose from any number of wonderful prizes – maybe a purple rabbit’s foot, a plastic ring with polyester tassels on it or a whistle in the shape of a rabid mongoose.

A very fit young woman is in the arcade holding what appears to be a large mallet in both hands. She avoids all of the electronic mumbo jumbo and stands instead in front of its hole, her job – her duty – is to whack that mole. The more moles you whack, the higher your score. The higher your score, the more rabid mongoose whistles you get to take home with you.

During the week prior to the 1988 Ironman, no one whacked more moles in Kona than 26-year-old Paula Newby-Fraser from Encinitas, California by way of Zimbabwe. Then on race day, Newby-Fraser whacked defending champion Erin Baker and the rest of the women’s field with a stunning performance.

“It was one of those days you dream about,” says Newby-Fraser. “The perfect race.”

Newby-Fraser finished exactly 30 minutes behind the overall winner, Scott Molina, broke the women’s course record and finished 11th overall.

Perfect? It was beyond perfect. She whacked everyone.

To see the complete Countdown To Kona series click here.