Reeling in a Hall of Famer
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Courtesy of Timothy Carlson, Slowtwitch.com
There was no one whose selection to the inaugural class of the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame January 17 at Colorado Springs that was more deserving. Oddly enough, this was a first, as Karen Smyers has not yet been chosen for the Ironman or Triathlete Halls of Fame.
Searching for a reason, however flimsy, it might be thus: baseball, football and basketball Halls of Fame hold off voting until their candidates have been retired for a decent number of years. And Smyers, with an unquenchable passion for her sport, is apparently nowhere near retirement. At age 47, the 1983 Princeton graduate and former Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) champion swimmer is about to enter her 26th year in the sport and thoughts of settling down and returning to age group competition are still off the table.
Competitively, her record belongs in any Hall of Fame serious about its mission. Smyers has won the ITU Olympic distance World Championship in 1990 and 1995, and completed an historic double by taking the Ironman World Championship in that same year of 1995. Smyers also the 1996 ITU long course World Championship in Muncie, Indiana, took seven US elite titles, won Pan American gold in 1995 and 1999, and won the ITU Triathlon World Cup overall title in 1991. Lest anyone think she is somehow over the hill at six years past Dara Torres, she won the Timberman half Ironman in 2004, and in 2005 took 4th places at Ironman Lake Placid and at Eagleman, and a 9th place at Ironman Hawaii. But she topped that off with a second place finish in the highly competitive Ironman 70.3 Florida in 2007.
She was a four-time -- 1994, 1995, 1996, 1999 -- United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Triathlete of the Year.
Smyers is equally well known for her survivor's pluck. She came back from a sliced hamstring suffered while changing a storm window, rebounded back from a collapsed lung and multiple broken bones when hit by an 18-wheel truck on a training ride near her Lincoln, Massachusetts home, shook off a broken collarbone and multiple injuries in a 1999 race crash (which ended her 17-year streak of never dropping out of a race ), and survived a scary bout with thyroid cancer in 1999.
Now a mother of 10-year-old Jenna and 5-year-old Casey, wife of movie producer Michael King, the former Tiger retains her blue collar tastes -- she is the triathlon star most age groupers would like to have beer with a gracious humility and a sense of humor. She shared a few thoughts on a triathlon life in full at the USA Triathlon ceremony at the Broadmoor Hotel.
Slowtwitch.com recently caught up with the newly minted former Tiger about her selection.