This is a two part story. One part has to do with one of the greats in triathlon: Scott Tinley. The other part has to do with almost everyone else who didn’t race the 1985 IRONMAN World Championship.
The race that year did not offer prize money. The prestige was there. It was the biggest race on the calendar as it is today. But only a handful of professionals trying to survive from their efforts in triathlons were able to translate what they did in Kona into a paycheck from somewhere else.
The pros staged a pay or no play stand down that year. As a group they highlighted to IRONMAN how all the other major events around the world were offering a prize purse. Only IRONMAN, an entity making money, was holding out and saying just come and race for the glory.
The result was THE weakest pro field in the modern era of IRONMAN, especially in the men’s race.
Scott Tinley was the only top established IRONMAN male to toe the line. He’d raced in Nice two weeks prior and was feeling the effects of that long distance race. But he had a gift for recovery and figured why not. It should be an “easy” IRONMAN without the likes of Dave Scott and others sitting this one out in protest of busting their bodies for a finishers medal and a T-shirt.
“The ’85 Ironman was the hardest “easy” IRONMAN. It was only two weeks after going toe to toe with The Grip over the long distance Nice Triathlon, which had a full marathon at the end.
It was “expected” that I’d have an easy time in Kona since only a few of the other the top guys would be able to recover (or would want to support the-then prize moneyless-event). While the conditions were mostly favorable, up-and-coming pro, Chris Hinshaw was on a mission to make a statement. He ended up leading through mile-4 of the marathon.”
Tinley made the pass at that point and never looked back. From there he knew all he had to do was just keep steady. There would be no race to the wire. It was more a matter of putting in the steps to finish out the remaining 22-miles. It would be his second victory. His first was in February 1982, a race where he defeated the nearly invincible Dave Scott. Tinley broke the course record in the process that year.
This year looked to be a totally different scenario. Scott Tinley, who was a very strong runner, had the lead early in the marathon with no credible threat coming from behind.
“Once I caught Chris and gained a comfortable gap, I relaxed a bit and enjoyed the event for perhaps the only time in my 20-year tenure. At one point I was caught on tape tossing a football with a journalist on a scooter. That got a less than enthusiastic response from the television team. I was scolded by a commentator on the back of the lead media van.”
“He said, “Tinley, if you don’t set a new world record then people will think this whole episode was the greatest cherry-pick in the history of triathlon. Focus, ST…put your head down and RUN!” And I did because that guy berating me was Dave Scott!”
And how he ran! For the second time in his career Scott Tinley won the IRONMAN World Championship. And for the second time in two victories he set a new world record. It was the perfect double/double. Two championships. Two world records. Tinley was batting a thousand!
But what really makes this a Top-40 Greatest Moment at IRONMAN is the shared irony of the day. The race was validated through Scott’s performance, yet it woke IRONMAN up to the modern world of top level sports. The field was weak. The depth was not there.
IRONMAN was lucky it had a great story in ST’s record breaking performance. But IRONMAN also knew that a truly competitive world-class event needed a start list that was busting at the seams with the names of every top endurance triathlete on the planet. And with that came prize money for the first time the following year in 1986.
To find out what Scott Tinley is up to these days click HERE.
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I am the Founder and CEO at Mark Allen Coaching. I am proud to have been voted in an ESPN global poll "The Greatest Endurance Athlete Of All Time." During my multi-sport career I won the Ironman Triathlon World Championship six time, the inaugural Triathlon World Championship at the Olympic Distance in Avignon, France, and at one point in my career I won 21 straight races across every derivation and distance. It was a great career, but that's all it would ever be unless I was able to share all of the experience and methodology we invented long before smart watches, power meters, and flashy uniforms. That's why I started Mark Allen Coaching, as a way to return to others at least the part of the gifts I received.