10 Unforgettable Kona Moments

Every finish to me is a memorable finish. However, the ones that always stand out are the dramatic ones. I can't categorize them from best to worse because they all hold a special place, so here are 10 unforgettable finishes, in no particular order.

  1. Wendy Ingraham and Sian Welch crawling across the finish line in 1997 on their hands and knees completely spent. When I saw both of them traversing back and forth across Ali'i Drive about 100 yards from the finish, I knew something was wrong. In unison they began to look like Gumby dolls. When they hit the finish-line carpet they looked like they were searching for quarters. It was an amazing site, with Wendy outreaching Sian for 4th place.
  2. Rick and Dick Hoyt in Kona in 1989 flying down the finish line. Dick's son, Rick, has cerebral palsy and can't walk or talk. I couldn't believe my eyes when we shot off the cannon and I saw a man pulling his son in an inflatable raft for the 2.4-mile swim. Then to see them complete the 140.6-mile journey—wow!
  3. Paula Newby-Fraser in 1992 when she set the current world record of 8 hours, 55 minutes, 28 seconds. Hearing Paula's split times from the course spotters, I thought they were joking or crazy. She finished the race in the top-20 overall and looked like she could have run further when she came to the finish line. Simply an amazing performance.
  4. In 2005, Sarah Reinertsen became the first female leg amputee to complete an Ironman. It was a very emotional finish since the year before she failed to make the bike cut-off and couldn't continue. The smile and emotion on her face told an incredible story that we all felt in our hearts.
  5. Mark Allen's 1995 victory over Germany's Thomas Hellriegal. Hellriegal had blistered the bike course in record time of 4:29:37, over 17 minutes better than Allen. After losing another minute to Hellriegal in the second transition, Allen ripped off his heart-rate monitor and proceeded to run Hellriegal down. He won by two minutes, 25 seconds. The greatest comeback Kona has ever seen.
  6. In 1998, Paul Martin became the first leg amputee to ever finish an Ironman. As he crossed the finish line, Martin stopped, took off his prosthetic leg and lifted it up over his head. The roar of the crowd was simply deafening and a sight I'll never forget.
  7. The finishes of Jim Ward of Florida and Bill Bell of California. Jim dominated his age division of 75 to 79 when he set an age-group course record at 75 years old of 15:51 in 1992. Jim is no longer with us and we miss him. Bill's finishes in Kona are always special, because he's continually one of the oldest finishers ever. Jim and Bill paved the way for young men like 80-year-old Robert McKeague of Illinois to come to Kona in 2005 and finish with his grandchildren in tow.
  8. Judy Molnar finishing in 1999, a year after not completing the bike leg. Judy had struggled with her weight but didn't let it affect her outlook on being a winner. Knowing what she went through just to get to the start line made seeing her finish with tears of joy rolling down her face very emotional.
  9. Jon Blais—the Blazeman—of Massachusetts who completed the race in 2005 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Jon was a fit triathlete that was afflicted with ALS in his 30s. Waiting for John at the finish line with his mom and dad was almost more than I could bear. He rolled across the finish line a winner and I think about him almost daily.
  10. Tom Warren and Scott Tinley. They broke the mold with these two. Bringing both of them to the finish over 25 times in Kona was always an honor. Warren won in 1979 and Tinley in 1982 and 1985. They are icons that will never be replaced.
See you in Kona!

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