The 25 Greatest Male Triathletes Of All Time from 25 to 20

Posted: March 18, 2014 by kirisyko in SykOtic, Triathlon
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There is no perfect way to rank athletes from different eras who specialized in varying distances from sprint to Olympic to iron to off-road. Some athletes dominated events that were once considered major events but are no longer in existence, such as the United States Triathlon Series. Others are from the era before triathlon became an Olympic sport, while some have built their reputations winning Ironman 70.3 races, a series that has been in existence for less than a decade. And how does the value of an Olympic gold compare to victory in Kona? All are things we wrestled with in our ranking. Here’s how we did it:

• We did not use a scoring system to objectively rank athletes—this list is subjective.
• The magnitude of the difference between an athlete and his peers is important—dominance counts. Concrete accomplishments and personal judgment of each athlete’s ability are both factors.
• Longevity—total accomplishments accumulated over a career and time spent at the top of the sport—and consistency are also considered.
• Athletes are judged against their contemporaries and the quality of the era during which they competed. An Ironman world title from this decade speaks louder than Gordon Haller’s victory in 1978, for example. (No offense, Gordon.)
• The quality of a championship is important. For instance, an Olympic gold counts more than an XTERRA world title because we believe the Olympics to be a more competitive and important race.
• Achievements in non-championship races count too, of course.
• Potential and hypothetical future accomplishments don’t count, only actual achievements.
• Accomplishments in duathlon are not considered.
• Athletes with a doping conviction are out. But: Athletes suspected of doping and never convicted are eligible.

25. Andreas Raelert

Had he gone a few seconds faster in the right races, Raelert would be much higher up this list. He has routinely been on and close to the podium at championship races without ever earning a world title or Olympic medal. The two-time Olympian started to focus on long-course racing after finishing sixth in the Athens Olympics in 2004 and blossomed at the long distances. He took second at the 2008 Ironman 70.3 World Championship, then went third, second, third and second at Ironman Hawaii from 2009 to 2012. It was a remarkable stretch of consistency during which he almost won the 2010 title. Chris McCormack out-dueled him over the marathon that year and kicked away from the German with less than a mile to go before the finish.

His close calls aside, Raelert has one unique achievement on his list of credentials: He set the current iron-distance world record with a 7:41:33 victory at Challenge Roth in 2011, four minutes better than the previous best over 140.6 miles.

24. Mike Pigg

The most important race series in the world in the 1980s was the United States Triathlon Series (USTS), and Mike Pigg was a dominant force—winning 30 times. He repeatedly beat the best in the world, including the top two on this list, over short distances. He was the four-time USTS National Champion and was the United States Olympic Committee’s male triathlete of the year in 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1996. The three-time Escape from Alcatraz champion won the first ever ITU World Cup race in St. Croix in 1991, knocking off the 1989 and 1990 ITU world champions, Mark Allen and Greg Welch respectively. His other ITU World Cup wins were in Las Vegas in 1991 and in Orange County in 1993. In 1988 Pigg had one of his best seasons when he won 15 of the 20 races he entered plus took second to Scott Molina at the Ironman World Championship, his best result there. Pigg will be inducted into the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame in June as part of the class of 2013.

23. Cameron Brown

Few Ironman athletes have a record as consistent as New Zealand’s Cameron Brown. His claim to fame is 10 Ironman New Zealand wins from 2001 to 2011 (2006 was the exception), in his home country’s most important long-course race. But nearly as impressive are his multiple appearances on the podium in Kona, including two second-place and two third-place finishes, and an Ironman European Championship the one year he didn’t win New Zealand. Tinley twice did what Brown couldn’t do even once—break the tape in Kona. But one of those wins came against a relatively shallow field, and Brown’s unparalleled record of consistency at Ironman New Zealand distinguished his track record.

Brown continues to add to his record late into his career. At the inaugural Ironman Melbourne in 2012, Brown gave Craig Alexander a run for his money in a thrilling battle coming off the two fastest bike splits of the day. The pair ran stride for stride until after mile 20 of the marathon, when Alexander eventually grew his lead to take the victory. Brown held on for a strong second in 8:00:12 against a stacked field that included future Ironman World Champion Frederik Van Lierde and Eneko Llanos. At the 30th anniversary of Ironman New Zealand, Brown, now 41, took second.

22. Sebastian Kienle

Earning the respect of peers is a sure sign of a professional athlete’s capabilities, and Kienle is downright feared on the Ironman 70.3 circuit. While he has won far fewer total races than many of the people on this list and some who didn’t make the cut, Kienle earns a spot because of the level he showed winning consecutive Ironman 70.3 World Championship titles in 2012 and 2013, as well as a budding list of Ironman credentials.

The strong German hit the top level of the sport in 2012 when he tore past the rest of the leaders on the bike so decisively during the Ironman 70.3 World Championship that athletes including Craig Alexander likened him to a motorcycle—they didn’t allow Kienle to build the decisive lead but rather he took it, and they couldn’t do anything about it. He has one Kona podium to his credit as well as a sub-eight-hour iron-distance PR.

Kienle’s résumé lacks depth primarily because the career long-course specialist is just 29 years old. Still, the young German’s peak, which he’s currently in the midst of, is higher than Brown or Raelert ever reached because he won an extremely competitive world title in back-to-back years.

21. Scott Molina

The man nicknamed “The Terminator” dominated short-course triathlon from 1982 through 1992—but present-day fans of the sport might overlook his achievements because many of the races he won are no longer around. He won 104 races in his career, including 50 United States Triathlon Series events (then the premier Olympic-distance series), six USA Pro Championship titles, two World’s Toughest Triathlon titles and one Ultraman Championship. Of course, he also won the 1988 Ironman World Championship. Always a factor whenever he was on the starting line, Molina finished second or third 46 times in his career. Molina was inducted into the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame in 2012.

Note: Scott Molina tested positive for nandrolone in 1988 at the Nice Triathlon and was given a one-year ban by the French Federation. But after reviewing the testing procedures, the U.S. Federation decided not to support the finding and he was not banned by any international governing body or other federation, which is why Molina is included on this list.

20. Greg Bennett

North American fans of triathlon are likely to remember Bennett for his flawless 2007 season on the Life Time Fitness Grand Slam series, but non-drafting races were a second act to the Australian’s career. That year he won the Life Time Fitness Triathlon, New York City Triathlon, Chicago Triathlon, Los Angeles Triathlon and Dallas Triathlon, and in 2007 those weren’t ordinary big-city triathlons—all the best athletes showed up to complete for the richest prize purse in the sport. He beat Craig Alexander, Simon Lessing, Hunter Kemper, Bevan Docherty, Rasmus Henning, Matt Reed, Craig Walton and Peter Robertson, among others, who all came out to race for the big money. Bennett beat them every time, winning all five races and the enormous bonus for sweeping the series. As a younger athlete Bennett was among the best ITU racers in the world, winning the ITU Triathlon World Cup series championship in 2002 and 2003. He raced the 2004 Olympics and finished fourth.

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