I was born in Glendale, California. Growing up I was a competitive swimmer, which eventually lead to becoming an All-American at UC San Diego where I received a degree in biology.
After competing and losing in the IRONMAN World Championship six times (often to Dave Scott), I emerged victorious in 1989, winning one of the most difficult one-day sporting events in the world. It would be the first of six Ironman titles in Hawaii, the last coming in 1995 at age 37.
In 1989 I also won the International Triathlon Union's inaugural World Championship at the Olympic distance in Avignon, France.
I was undefeated in ten trips to the Nice International Triathlon in France, and from 1988-1990 I put together a streak of 21 consecutive race wins at all distances of triathlons from the Olympic distance all the way up to Ironman.
Over the course of my racing career, which ended in 1996, I maintained a 90% average in top-three finishes. I was named "Triathlete of the Year" six times by Triathlete magazine. In 1997 Outside magazine tabbed me "The World's Fittest Man" and was also inducted into the Ironman Hall of Fame. My most recent honor came in 2012 when I was voted "The Greatest Endurance Athlete Of All Time" in a worldwide poll conducted by ESPN.