by Susan Lacke
With two of our most prestigious events behind us (the Memorial Hermann RONMAN North American Championship in Texas and the IRONMAN 70.3 North American Pro Championship in St. George), it seemed an opportune time to share our latest 40th Anniversary “best of” IRONMAN poll. We asked YOU, our IRONMAN community, who you thought was deserved “greatest” status among our many inspiring and dedicated American male pro triathletes (IRONMAN/IRONMAN 70.3).
We weren’t surprised by the result. We’ve seen a lot of inspiring athletes cross the line in 40 years of IRONMAN racing. Chief among those is Mark “The Grip” Allen, who sums up his racing career as “1-6-21-Infinity.” Though these numbers seem simple, they represent a person truly deserving of legend status.
One is for Allen’s 1989 victory at the inaugural International Triathlon Union World Championship, where he set the standard for ITU racing with a massive come-from-behind victory over a deep field. “That win is one I am most proud of in my career,” said Allen in a 2009 interview. “(That) to me was the ultimate stamp that said ‘Hey, you are also able to win short fast races as well as anybody in the world.'”
But it was IRONMAN where he cemented his title as one of the sport’s greatest. After trying – and failing – six times to best Dave Scott at the IRONMAN World Championship, a fierce rivalry mounted between the two legendary athletes. This enmity culminated in 1989’s “Iron War,” a spectacular duel between Allen and Scott on the lava fields of Kona, Hawaii. That year, Allen and Scott raced shoulder-to-shoulder for 140 miles, each refusing to give up the lead as they swam, biked, and ran at world-record paces. Allen won by only 58 seconds. He would go on to win the race a total of six times between 1989 and 1995.