Some of the biggest names in triathlon gathered in the Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier last night to celebrate the induction of five new members into the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame, which honored 1979 Ironman Hawaii champion Tom Warren, elite athlete Mike Pigg, age-grouper Sister Madonna Buder and Ironman cofounders John and Judy Collins.
“This is a real tribute to the individuals who have contributed so much over the years to make triathlon the sport it is today,” Jon Gray Noll, chair of the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame Committee and Class of 2008 inductee, said.
The event began with a Welcome Reception presented by BP America and featured brief Q&A sessions with several aspiring Olympians and Paralympians, including locals Kevin McDowell and Melissa Stockwell.
Stockwell, a paratriathlete since 2009 and one of the cofounders of the Dare2tri Paratriathlon Club, presented the evening’s keynote speech, during which she highlighted the importance of a positive attitude and noted how a life of sport gave her confidence that carried over into all aspects of her life.
“Paratriathlon is a sport where we are defined by our athletic ability, not our disability,” Stockwell said.
The inductions brought together many influential players in the development of triathlon, beginning with Bob Babbitt, who accepted Warren’s award as Warren could not make the event.
“Tommy was the pied piper,” Babbitt said. “He was the reason we all got into the sport.”
Dave McGillivray, race director of the Boston Marathon, USA Triathlon Hall of Fame Class of 2010 inductee and former business manager for Mike Pigg, introduced Pigg and presented him with a 2013 Boston Marathon jacket, symbolizing perseverance and endurance.
“You don’t win every race,” Pigg said during his acceptance speech. “I learned a lot of great lessons in life and met a lot of good people. This sport was such a gift.”
After an introduction from USA Triathlon Board President Barry Siff, 83-year-old triathlete Sister Madonna Buder took to the podium to accept her award. Buder, a 45-time Ironman finisher, has opened five age groups for women at Ironman races and looks forward to future competitions this year, despite fracturing her pelvis on March 15.
The evening concluded with the induction of Ironman cofounders John and Judy Collins, introduced by their children, Michael and Kristin. The Collins competed in the first-ever U.S. triathlon in San Diego in 1974 and, after relocating to Hawaii, came up with the idea to combine the Waikiki Roughwater Swim, the Around-Oahu Bike Race and the Honolulu Marathon to determine which athletes had the highest level of fitness. Though relatively small at its inception, the competition took off after a 1979 Sports Illustrated article.
“The media attention was good for all of us,” John Collins said. “We now have a viable sport of our own.”
The USA Triathlon Hall of Fame began in 2008 and now features 27 members. To learn more about the Hall of Fame and its inductees, visit usatriathlon.org/hof.