Three of triathlon's Big Four, two key contributors and a top age-grouper were formally inducted into the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame on Thursday at the Bahia Resort Hotel.
A sold-out crowd of nearly 300 friends, family members and multisport dignitaries gathered to honor pre-2000 elite triathletes Mark Allen, Scott Molina, and Scott Tinley; contributors Bob Babbitt and Sally Edwards; and age-grouper Ethel Autorino.
Plenty of the sport's biggest names were in attendance, including Dave Scott, the first member of the Big Four inducted into the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame, and two-time Ironman World Champion Chris McCormack. Even Lance Armstrong, who had planned to attend the event, delivered a video message for the inductees. "Truth is, a triathlete won the Tour de France seven times," Armstrong said.
"It was an amazing night," said Chuck Graziano, chair of the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame Committee. "This was an incredible experience watching all six of the inductees tell stories that take everyone in the room back and show that these inductees have really shaped where the sport is today."
Sally Edwards, who has founded six fitness-related businesses, written 23 books, set a Master's Ironman world record and finished last in every Danskin triathlon so that another woman does not have to, talked about doing your best in all aspects of life.
"I volunteer to finish last, and I went from first to worst. In the USAT rankings, I am the worst triathlete in America," Edwards said. "It's the best place to be, because leading from the back is where we should be leading."
Autorino is one of the most decorated age-groupers in U.S. multisport history. She is a 10-time age-group winner at the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championship and went on to capture six gold medals and one silver as a member of Team USA at the ITU World Championships.
"I've led an absolutely charmed life," Autorino said. "After winning races and finding out that I really enjoyed it, triathlons got more sophisticated. They even added bike racks."
Babbitt has helped push the sport of triathlon to new heights through a myriad of contributions over the past 25 years. His work in the world of multisport media began when he co-founded Competitor Magazine in 1987 and helped launch Competitor Radio in 1990.
Babbitt spoke of his first Ironman and the nutrition his crew provided during the race, including a Big Mac, fries and a Coke. "I thought this would take me two days. I had no idea I could do it in one day," Babbitt said. "So I thought, 'there's going to be a band. There's going to be all sorts of people cheering for us at the finish. This is a pretty impactful event.' Instead there's chalk on the road and a light bulb. I hear this voice: 'hey you, you in the race? You're done.'"
Allen is recognized as one of triathlon's all-time greats, having captured six Ironman World Championship titles between 1989-95.
"This award for me is not so much honoring the accomplishments during my racing career, but the sum of all of [the Big Four's] accomplishments together," Allen said. "If we were all in a race together, there was about a 99 percent chance that one of us would be the champion. And when one of us won, it was a win for all of us."
Molina stands as one of the most decorated triathletes in the history of the sport. Among his 104 professional triathlon victories are six USA Triathlon Elite National Championships - including four straight from 1983-86 - the 1988 Ironman World Championship and a pair of World's Toughest Triathlon titles.
A tearful Molina acknowledged those who had an impact in his career plus his fellow athletes in the Big Four. "To Dave Scott, who set the standard, to Mark Allen, who I chased, to ST [Tinley], who I probably spent a good 10-15,000 hours training with, this wouldn't be worth anything to me if I wasn't being inducted with you guys."
With nearly 100 career multisport victories, Scott Tinley ranks as one of the winningest triathletes of all time. After discovering the sport as a student at San Diego State in 1976, Tinley became a two-time Ironman World Championship winner, topping the podium in 1982 and 1985.
Tinley spoke about the winner of the inaugural modern triathlon, Dr. Bill Phillips, whom he once asked, 'why triathlons?' Phillips told him it's something hard, but it's meaningful. Do what you can. "I never forgot that," Tinley said.
For full bios on all of the inductees, visit the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame page at usatriathlon.org/HOF2011.
The USA Triathlon Hall of Fame was founded in 2008, and this year's class brings the total number of inductees to 19.