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Recalled: Scott Tinley Wins The 1985 Hawaii Ironman

  • By Erin Beresini
  • Published Feb 11, 2013
One of triathlon’s “Big Four,” Scott Tinley helped define the early years of Ironman. But could he throw a spiral? Photo: Lois Schwartz

At the Hawaii Ironman in 1985, Scott Tinley proved he was the ultimate multisport athlete.

This article was originally published in the July/August 2012 issue of Inside Triathlon magazine.

The year was 1985. Several top pros including Scott Molina, Dave Scott and Mark Allen unofficially boycotted the Bud Light Ironman World Championship to protest the lack of prize money. Instead, Allen, Molina and Scott Tinley all raced the Nice Triathlon three weeks earlier, a long-distance world cup event (4K/120K/30K) that promised a payout as well as media attention. But when Tinley, then 29 years old, returned home from France, he got the Ironman itch.

“Everyone said there’s no way you could do two long-distance events back-to-back within three weeks,” Tinley remembers. “So I tried.”

Tinley found himself in second place in the Ironman World Championship going into the run but quickly made up time, catching the leader by mile 3 and steadily widening the gap by a minute per mile. By mile 21—about where this photo was taken—Tinley had a sizeable lead.

So when Ironman Hall of Famer Bob Babbitt, then an editor of a now-defunct magazine called Running and Triathlon News, came up beside Tinley in a press convertible and tossed him a football, Tinley happily found himself playing catch during his race.

“It was a classic moment,” Tinley says. “It was nice to do something completely against what you’d expect someone to do near the end of a world championship event.”

But after only a few minutes, Tinley’s game of catch was interrupted by none other than Dave Scott.

“He came over in the lead vehicle and was telling me I needed to go—that I could break the course record,” Tinley says.

Tinley picked it up, and Scott coached him the rest of the way to a record-breaking finish of 8:50:54, proving it was possible to successfully race two big events within weeks of each other. But Tinley’s fondest memory from that day was witnessing Dave Scott’s innate coaching ability for the first time.

“To see him in that position where he’d separate his own place in sport to help someone who might be considered a competitor,” Tinley remembers, “that was a very poignant moment for me.”

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