As Chair of the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame Committee, I had the privilege of inducting 5 really great people of our sport into the Hall of Fame last weekend. Paula Newby-Fraser needs no introduction, with her 24 Ironman wins including 8 in Kona. Barb Linquist was ranked #1 in the world for 2 consecutive years and won a huge proportion of her career total races. Valerie Silk was the original owner of Ironman in Kona and is responsible for moving the race to the Big Island and making it what it is today, before selling it to WTC.
Jim Curl and Carl Thomas may not be much a household word as the others, but these guys were visionaries who are largely responsible for Triathlon becoming what it is today, and specifically for it being an Olympic Event. Carl Thomas told the story at the Hall of Fame induction of how he came up with the race distances we today call the Olympic Distance.
When he went to the IOC in 1988 to petition for Triathlon to be an Olympic Sport, he wanted the support of the swimmers, the cyclists and the runners. So, he chose the 1500 meter swim, which is the longest distance in competitive swimming, 40km for the bike since that's the gold standard time trial distance for cyclists and the 10km run, for its popularity in competitive running. He also chose metric since, well, the whole world is on the metric system other than the US and UK! Before doing this, there was no real standard distance for triathlon, except for the distances of the US Triathlon Series, founded and developed by Carl Thomas and Jim Curl. The distances prior to Thomas' visit to the IOC were 2km swimming, 40km cycling and 15km running, a distance selected by them because it would produce finishing times that were comparable to the finishing time for a marathon!
After 24 years of racing, I never knew that story until the induction ceremony, although racing in the USTS is what really got me involved in the sport!