(This photo is of me with my girlfriend, Aida, and Mark Allen, Alistar Brownlee and Dave Scott)
Of course, there is no definitive way to determine who the men’s “greatest of all time” (GOAT) Ironman triathlete is, but here’s my thinking.
There is no doubt, and probably no dispute, that the first Ironman distance GOAT was Dave Scott. The guy won the Ironman World Championships six times (1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987). At the time, no one had ever won the men’s championship six times.
I also think of Dave as the pioneer in Ironman because he was on the leading edge of training and nutrition (including straining his cottage cheese). Not that he had everything figured out, but he made the biggest advances of any other athlete at that time.
It would also be very easy to make a case for Mark Allen as the GOAT. Dave had his six wins before Mark even had his first in 1989 at the Iron War race which will live on in infamy.
While Mark also won six times (1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1995) he had to do so against the entire world. Early in the sport the U.S. dominated without much competition from other countries. By the time Mark won his first, solid competitors from Australia, Finland, Switzerland and Chile (really?) were present. Yep, Ironman became a world event, and the competition became much tougher.
Additionally, Mark won five times in a row and may have won six, but he sat out in 1994 because his wife, Julie Moss, was about to have a baby.
That’s pretty impressive!
Both Peter Reid and Craig Alexander won three times, which is amazing, but I’ve never heard of either referred to as the GOAT. Of course, by the time they were winning the world competition was getting even stronger with countries like Germany coming on strong.
So today they call Jan Frodeno the GOAT. While he is an amazing athlete, and the competition is even more stiff than ever, Jan only won the world championship three times. Nothing to sneeze at for sure, but can you really call him the GOAT?
Two thoughts: first, for my money, Mark Allen is the GOAT (of ALL time). Mark was put on this earth to do Ironman. It’s clear to me that if he was born 10 years earlier or 10 years later, he still would have dominated. Coincidently, Mark is also a TriDot coach (just like me).
Second, maybe GOAT should refer to who is the “current” GOAT. Dave was the GOAT of his time; Mark was the GOAT of his time and Jan was the GOAT of his time. What’s wrong with that?
In any event, I’m inspired by them all. In fact, I’m inspired by you too, for dedicating yourself to the sport we all love and putting in the long hours to do it. Keep it up!
See you at the races!
Coach Ron Saetermoe