USA Triathlon Hall of Fame
USA Triathlon announced its inaugural class of the USAT Hall of Fame. It includes ITU World Cup legends Karen Smyers, and Sheila Taormina, administrators Verne Scott and Jon Gray Noll, and age-group athlete Judy Flannery.
The selection follows a long process that included nominations by the USAT membership and an arduous screening process of the nominees. The inductees are being recognized across four categories: contributor, age-group athlete, pre-1999 elite athletes, and post-2000 elite athlete.
“This being the first year of the Hall of Fame, everyone on the committee was committed to setting a very high standard and to selecting inductees who truly shaped the sport,” said Chuck Graziano, co-chair of the Hall of Fame Selection Committee. “I think we’re all exceedingly pleased with the result and it makes the hours and hours of work worthwhile. In the coming years, we’ll have a great standard to maintain and the stature of USAT’s Hall of Fame will be on par with any Hall of Fame in any sport as a result.”
Karen Smyers, Pre-2000 Elite Athlete
Karen Smyers is one of the most versatile women in the history of triathlon. Over her professional career, she accumulated seven national triathlon titles (including six in a row), one national duathlon title, two world triathlon medals, and one victory at Ironman Kona. Her 1995 double of winning at Kona and returning two weeks later to capture the ITU Triathlon World Championship is perhaps the single most remarkable achievement in the sport to date. Smyers was also a Pan American Games gold medallist and a three-time USOC Triathlete of the Year. She continues to serve as an inspiration through her coaching, writing, speaking, and sharing her story of surviving cancer.
I am incredibly flattered to be chosen for this honour especially on the first round considering the number of great American triathletes we have had over the past few decades, said Smyers.
Sheila Taormina, Post-1999 Elite Athlete
Sheila is considered by many to be one of the greatest athletes in history and is one of only a handful to have ever risen to the top in three separate sports. After a successful swimming career, which included a gold medal at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996, Taormina made the move to triathlon. She won silver at the 2003 Pan American Games, gold at the 2004 ITU World Championships and earned podium finishes at ten ITU World Cups including three wins. She is the only U.S. woman to make two Olympic teams, finishing 6th in 2000 and 23rd in 2004. Not content to walk away from sports, Taormina sought a new challenge in 2005 and quickly began to excel in the sport of modern pentathlon. After three world cup podiums, Taormina made history by making her fourth Olympic Games in three sports. She finished 19th at the Beijing Olympic Games.
Being inducted into the USAT Hall of Fame means so much to me because I worried people in the sport would think that I did not like triathlon. When I switched to pentathlon it was not because of a dislike for triathlon. I was just trying to embark on a unique journey, but I always loved the years I spent in triathlon. To have the federation and peers remember that I passionately trained for the first two Olympics in triathlon is such a nice feeling, said Taormina.
Judy Flannery, Age-Group Athlete
One of the sport’s early age-group stars, Judy won seven national triathlon titles, two duathlon national titles, four triathlon world gold medals, and five duathlon world gold medals. She was instrumental in establishing the USAT Women’s Committee and annual women’s breakfasts at major national and international races. She persuaded the Danskin Series to become USAT-sanctioned and inspired thousands of women to become involved in the sport. She was tragically killed while biking in 1997. Judy’s daughter, Erin, offered these comments on her mother’s induction:
We are proud that my mother is being inducted into the inaugural class of the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame. The association between my mother and the sport of triathlon was always very positive and rewarding, and we are happy that it continues with this induction. Also, our family is bigger now with four grandchildren, who were born after my mother died in 1997. The grandchildren are old enough to understand that this is a great honour.
Verne Scott, Contributor
Based out of his bedroom office and on a shoestring budget, Verne Scott worked tirelessly to put everything, big and small, in place for the establishment of the Triathlon Federation (USA Triathlon) in the 1980s. Rules, event production standards, sanctioning process, championships, meetings, membership, magazine, without Scott nothing would have been completed. Although his son, Dave, may be the most famous athlete in the family, Scott had his share of age group wins. After retiring as Executive Director of Tri-Fed in 1987, he returned to his full time responsibility as a professor at University of California-Davis until his retirement in 1989 at age 65. He continues to swim and work out three to four times per week, coaches swimming classes for beginning adults, plays golf, and serves as a volunteer for community service activities.
Considering how many men and women are deserving of this honour, it was a surprise and appreciated, said Scott.
Jon Gray Noll, Contributor
President of Tri-Fed from 1984 to 1989, Jon Gray Noll teamed with Verne Scott to establish the foundation of the National Governing Body. His accomplishments include the establishment of the first set of competitive rules and the first true set of event production standards, while putting the organization’s business plan in place. He also helped rebuild the organization’s structure and bylaws to conform to the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act. He was instrumental in creating the NGB’s first magazine (Transition Times) and securing national distribution and creating the Tri-Fed National Championship as a separate race. His final act in office involved appointing the delegation that helped create the International Triathlon Union and the ITU World Triathlon Championship.
I was surprised and sincerely flattered to hear of my nomination. It was totally unexpected. It is an honour, for which I am deeply and profoundly grateful. To be recognized for my activities as the leader of the federation during its formative years is humbling, said Noll.
The official induction will take place at a banquet on Saturday, January 17 as part of the Race Director Symposium at the Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
More details on each of these key players in the development of MultiSport and USAT will be available in the Winter Issue of USA Triathlon Life and on the USAT website in the coming months.