2018 is the 40th anniversary of the Ironman World Championship, and I’m looking back at each of my years at the Hawaii Ironman, starting in 1980 on the island of Oahu. I missed the first two years, 1978 and 1979, but since 1980, I haven’t missed a World Championship. Every Friday, I count down each year – from my experiences as a participant in the early 80s, to my early years covering the event as a journalist, through my many years covering the race at Competitor Magazine and publisher of the official race program, to the early days of the Ironman LIVE broadcast, and on up to the launch and continuation of the Breakfast with Bob show.
You can follow along on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and catch up here…
Part 3: 2000 – 2009
2000 was a great year for rivalries.
In the men’s and women’s pro races, we saw battles between multiple-win champions, and some second place finishes that left the fires burning for that top step. Natascha Badmann threw down a 5:06:42 bike to beat defending champion Lori Bowden, 9:26:16 to 9:29:04, and get her second World Championship title.
Peter Reid also got his second title, beating training buddy Tim DeBoom by just 2:09. That two minutes would haunt DeBoom for the next 12 months.
As for Reid, here is what he had to say about his second victory:
“This was the toughest race I have ever done. In 1998, everything went right for me all day long and I was able to enjoy that last magical stretch down Ali’i Drive. This year, I didn’t even see Ali’i Drive. All I wanted was to see that white line at the finish and to see my feet across it. I crossed that line, and I was completely worked. There was nothing left. It’s a great way to finish the Ironman, because it makes you realize how hard this race really is. It was a fight all the way to the finish.”
2000 had, in my opinion, one of the greatest rivalries and battles in Ironman history. The IronWar between David Bailey and Carlos Moleda. The motocross star and Navy SEAL went head-to-head three years in a row in the handcycle division at the Ironman World Championship, with Carlos winning in ’98 and ’99.
The tables turned in 2000, when, as David tells us, he had to dig deeper than ever before to answer the question: How Bad Do You Want It?
Read more about David and Carlos here
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It’s #FlashbackFriday. Time for another edition of my look back at each of my years at the Ironman World Championship. This week: 2000, a great year for rivalries. Part 2: 2000 had, in my opinion, one of the greatest rivalries and battles in Ironman history. For three years, from 1998-2000, former Navy SEAL Carlos Moleda and motocross legend David Bailey went head-to-head in Kona in the handcycle division. Moleda had been paralyzed when he was shot in the back during a mission in Panama. Bailey was a legend in the sport of motocross and at the top of his game before he had been paralyzed during a training session. For the first two years, Moleda had his way with Bailey. But heading into the 2000 race, Bailey looked fitter than he had ever been before. He knew that he had to put in ridiculous mileage in the pool, in his handcycle, and in his racing chair if he wanted to finally take down Moleda. The two were on a collision course and it played out that way on race day. Moleda went by Bailey going up Palani early in the handcycle ride. Bailey caught him on the way back to town, but flatted with about six miles to go in the ride and Moleda got away. Early in the marathon, Bailey was losing ground. But then all of those training sessions started to pay dividends and he caught and passed Moleda as they came out of the Natural Energy Lab. When Bailey came across the line for the win, he waited for Moleda. When Moleda arrived, the two embraced and I could see Bailey whisper something to Moleda. As we headed away from the finish, I asked Moleda what Bailey had said to him. “He told me ‘Thank You,’” said Moleda. “What?” I said in surprise. “That’s what I said!” Moleda continued. “He said ‘thank you for pushing me to a level I never would have reached on my own.’” The three year battle between the two of them was special because the word disability and the wheelchairs disappeared. What we had on race day was two amazing athletes who wanted nothing more than to kick the others guy’s ass. How awesome is that?
Watching Carlos and David’s race unfold out on the Queen K Highway in 2000 was epic. These show the crucial moments out of the Natural Energy Lab when David caught and passed Carlos…
At 40 minutes into this awesome interview with David Bailey, we talk about the critical moments in the 2000 race, including the significance of the Natural Energy Lab
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#FlashbackFriday This week in my series of looking back at each of my years at the IRONMAN World Championship it’s the year 2001. Part 1: American Tim DeBoom’s Emotional Win The race was special. Being the first international sporting event after the tragedy of 9/11, the 2001 Ironman World Championship felt different. The athletes weren’t even sure that the event would take place that year and most had a difficult time getting back to something as trivial as swimming, biking, and running after the attacks. But when October rolled around, there they were and the race was full steam ahead. America’s Tim DeBoom had lost the year before to his former training partner, Canadian Peter Reid, by a mere 2:09. “I remember thinking at the finish,” remembers DeBoom. “I lost the Ironman by two lousy minutes. I knew that every time I went out for a ride, run, or swim during the next 12 months that two minutes would both haunt me and push me. Two minutes? You’ve got to be kidding!” DeBoom was a man on a mission. As he ran through the final miles of the marathon in first place, fittingly the first American to win the Ironman since Mark Allen in 1995, the fans weren’t cheering ‘Go Tim!’ “They were cheering ‘Go USA, Go USA!’” says DeBoom. “It gave me goosebumps.” 📷 @robert_oliver_photo
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#FlashbackFriday This week in my series of looking back at each of my years at the IRONMAN World Championship it’s the year 2001. Part 2: ▶️ Switzerland’s Natascha Badmann got her 3rd world championship, with Canadian Lori Bowden finishing 2nd to Natascha also for the 3rd time. ▶️ In the men’s race, New Zealand’s Cam Brown finished in 2nd place, the Kiwi legend’s best finish at the world championship. ▶️ With the event taking place just a month after the attacks of 9-11, the pier could not be used in 2001, so some course changes were required. T1 was moved to the King Kam parking lot and T2 was moved to the Old Airport. Making 2000 the last year for T2 to be out at Keauhou. 📷 @robert_oliver_photo
With the event taking place just a month after the attacks of 9-11, the pier could not be used in 2001, so some course changes were required. T1 was moved to the King Kam parking lot and T2 was moved to the Old Airport. Making 2000 the last year for T2 to be out at Keauhou.
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#FlashbackFriday As we celebrate IRONMAN’s #40YearsofDreams, I have been taking a look back at each of my years at the Hawai’i Ironman, starting in 1980. This week, my 24th time at the Ironman World Championship: 2002 Photo 1 of 2 ▶️ In 2002, Natascha Badmann won her 4th world title, her 3rd in a row, with a trademark dominating bike: 4:52:26. Just seven minutes slower than men’s champ Tim DeBoom’s 4:45. Swiss cycling powerhouse Karin Thurig threatened to shake things up on the bike in 2002, but ended up getting out-split by Badmann, riding 4:55:32, and finished in 8th place. In the post-race press conference, Natascha was asked if she was concerned about Karin: “She was behind me so I didn’t know what she was doing. To win here you have to be good at everything. Hawai’i has its own law.” 📷 The legendary @robert_oliver_photo
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#FlashbackFriday As we celebrate IRONMAN’s #40YearsofDreams, I have been taking a look back at each of my years at the Hawai’i Ironman, starting in 1980. This week, my 24th time at the Ironman World Championship: 2002 Part 2 After his emotional win in 2001, Tim DeBoom was able to successfully defend his title in 2002, winning back to back championships. Continuing their racing rivalry, Peter Reid finished 2nd, and Kiwi legend Cam Brown finished 3rd. 2002 was one of those years when everyone talked about how hot it was. Tim DeBoom, at the post-race press conference: “Definitely the hottest Ironman I have ever done.I was going to say something to Cam and Peter, like, ‘I can’t believe how hot it is,’ but in 2000 Peter scolded me for talking when we were running together so I didn’t say anything.” For more from the 2-time Ironman World Champion, enjoy this in-depth interview with Tim DeBoom on Babbittville Radio ▶️ babbittville.com/tim-deboom/ 📷 The legendary @robert_oliver_photo
For more from the 2-time Ironman World Champion, enjoy this in-depth interview with Tim DeBoom
2003 was the 25th anniversary of the Ironman World Championship, and it was also my 25th Hawaii Ironman, starting back in 1980 on Oahu. Here’s a little bit of what I wrote about the event in the race program….
Lori Bowden hadn’t won the Ironman World Championship since 1999 and had never beaten Natascha Badmann, the four-time champion. Bowden’s estranged husband Peter Reid had retired from the sport of triathlon late in the summer of 2002 and didn’t know if he’d ever race again. Then came October 18th……..
Another dramatic scene Huddle and I watched unfold on our little monitor was that of two-time world champion Tim DeBoom struggling late on the run and ending up in the back of a medical van. It would later be revealed that Tim was passing a kidney stone. Do Ironman athletes know how to hurt? Ah, yeah.
Peter Reid thought he had lost his love of the sport, but found it again in 2003, and crossed the finish line on Ali’i Drive once again in first place. But 15 weeks prior to that, Reid was out of shape and riding his motorcycle on the roads where he once trained on his bike. A friend who had grown tired of watching Reid spiral downward, confronted him with Mark Allen’s “18 Weeks to Your First Ironman” training program and encouraged him to find the old Peter Reid again. Already three weeks behind, Reid buckled down and spent the next 15 weeks losing 25 pounds and regaining his sense of self and his passion for racing.
Though no longer a couple, both Lori Bowden and Peter Reid experienced great joy savoring their victories at the finish line, but most of the memorable drama of 2003 happened far away from the spotlight of the carpeted, flag-draped, raucous stretch of Ali’i Drive.
More from 2004, from our Kona Countdown in 2006, I wrote about Natascha Badmann and the 2004 championship…
A Winning Smile
People sometimes don’t think of all the ramifications of PED use. Not so much on the athlete who cheats, but on everyone else. Back in 2004, Germany’s Nina Kraft won the Ironman with four-time Ironman World Champion Natascha Badmann an unbelievable 17 minutes back in second place. Kraft’s behavior was strange that week. At the pre-race press conference, she was bundled up like a mummy and shivering. Did she have the flu? Maybe the third place finisher from 2003 won’t be a factor this year, I thought.
When she crossed the line that day with her huge win, there seemed to be no joy surrounding her victory. Her head was down and she never smiled.
Later we found out why. Nina Kraft became the only person in Ironman World Championship history to win the race, test positive for drugs, and have her title taken away. She admitted that she felt so much pressure to win that she resorted to EPO.
Besides leaving a black mark on the sport and ruining her own career, how about poor Natascha Badmann of Switzerland who, despite now being a five-time champion, certainly didn’t feel like one. She didn’t get to break the tape or wear the traditional wreath or speak at the awards ceremony. To me that was oh so wrong.
So what did we do? The Ironman sent her trophy to me in San Diego along with a winner’s wreath and the finishing tape and, on stage at our Competitor Magazine Endurance Sports Awards in February of 2005, with 500 attendees giving Natascha a well-deserved standing ovation, we recreated the Ironman finish on stage so that the woman whose smile and infectious joy always lit up an entire island, could finally have her very special moment in the sun.
Natascha Badmann is now a six-time champion, and I will remember all of her wins, but her fifth one most of all.
Starting my look back at 2005: The cover of the official race program, and a photo of Paul Huddle and me at the Ironman Live Sports Desk, our 3rd year of co-hosting the live broadcast of the event…
In all my years of doing a radio show and over 5,000 interviews, I never had the pleasure of interviewing the great Natascha Badmann for the show… until now. This was special. Enjoy my chat with the 6-time IRONMAN World Champion here.
In 2005, we had two of the most emotional, memorable, and historic finishes at the Ironman World Championship: Sarah Reinertsen and Jon Blais, aka Blazeman
When Sarah Reinertsen first came to the Ironman in 2004, the goal was to become the first above-knee amputee to finish the event. Sarah missed the cutoff time on the bike that day by 15 minutes. But for someone who had been told by her soccer coach that while the other girls played the games, he wanted her to go off by herself and kick the ball against a wall, proving people wrong and overcoming the odds was something she took in stride. The following year the theme became ‘Unfinished Business’ and, ironically, on 10/15/05, her time was 15:05 and Sarah became the first single above-knee amputee woman to finish the toughest day in sport. More importantly, thousands of other people who watched her story play out on NBC in both 2004 and 2005 were moved by Sarah to overcome their own personal challenges in the years to come.
When Jon Blais was diagnosed with ALS in January of 2005, he was told that there was no treatment and no cure and that he had two to five years to live. As he treaded water in Kailua Bay for the 2005 Ironman, he had no idea if he could even finish the race because his body had deteriorated so rapidly.
He completed the swim in 1:50 rather than the 1:05 he would have swam before ALS. On race day he was forced to swim with only one arm. On the bike he couldn’t get out of the saddle and his calves and quads were seizing up throughout the ride. He made the bike cutoff time and headed out on the marathon to complete the race and become the first and only person with ALS to even attempt the toughest day in sport.
When the Voice of the Ironman, Mike Reilly, asked Blazeman before the race what his plans were for the finish line – maybe a Greg Welch style leap or a push-up, or ten – he responded by saying that he didn’t know if he’d be able to finish, but that Reilly might need to log roll his sorry butt across the line.
The Blazeman Roll has become a common site at the Ironman finish line by Ironman finishers everywhere and it’s a tribute to its creator. Jon Blais passed away at the age of 35 on May 27, 2007, but the awareness he created that day and the charity he created to help find a cure for ALS will live on forever.
“You can choose to be pissed off or pissed on,” he told me in an interview after the race. Blazeman, as always, chose the former.
It poured rain late in the day in 2006, and along a wet and soggy Ali’i Drive, we had one of those indelible Ironman moments…from our Kona Countdown: A Salute to His Soldiers
The date was June 21, 2003 and Captain David Rozelle was in his Humvee on a mission in Iraq. Their vehicle drove over an anti-tank land mine and Rozelle, who was sitting directly above where the explosion was centered, was bleeding profusely from his arms, legs and face. Within two hours Rozelle was at the hospital and the doctors were giving him two options. They could try and keep his lower right leg, but he’d have a club foot that would be useless. Or he could have his leg amputated and he’d be back running in a year.
That was actually the option they gave me, he laughs. After the surgery, he ended up home in Fort Collins, Colorado and tried to adjust to life as a lower-leg amputee. We’re human and sometimes we’re weak, remembers Rozelle. When he wasn’t on morphine for the pain, he was self-medicating with whiskey. I wasn’t being a good husband or a good father, he continues. I stayed up late, woke up late, and watched television all day. I couldn’t even
Then a letter arrived that changed everything. It was a letter he wrote to his wife, Kim, from Iraq before he was injured. At the time he wrote the letter, Kim was due to have their first child, Forrest, any day.
When I read the letter I realized the pain my wife would have felt if she received it after I had died, he says.
Rozelle stopped using morphine, started training 3-5 hours a day, and completed his first triathlon.
Eventually he passed his physical and was cleared to return to Iraq to resume his command.
In 2006 he went to Kona to attempt the Ironman World Championship. As he got to within a quarter mile of the finish. He stopped to towel off and to gather himself. It was important to me to not only finish the Ironman, but to also look strong and powerful coming across the line, he insists. My soldiers needed to know that if I can do it, so can they.
For more from David Rozelle, enjoy this Babbittville Radio interview here.
Couple photos from after the 2007 Awards Banquet: with champion Chrissie Wellington and five of the men’s Top 10.
Read about Craig Alexander’s win in 2008, and the important role his family played in his journey in The Puzzle.
In 2008, a young Ricky James was mentored by fellow motocross star David Bailey to an emotional Ironman finish. I wrote about David and Ricky for our Kona Countdown:
David Bailey met Ricky James when James was 16 years old and an up-and-coming motocross star. Bailey, a legend in the sport who had been paralyzed in training, worked with top motocross athletes and could tell that this kid Ricky James had it all. He had great looks, a megawatt smile, a need for speed, and he was fearless.
When Ricky James was paralyzed during a race, David Bailey met with Ricky and his parents and served as a mentor. One day, just like David Bailey, Ricky James decided he wanted to give the Ironman a try.
In October of 2008, in his third-ever triathlon and first Ironman, Ricky James went 12:44 in Kona. The two of them trained together pretty much every day, and while the training definitely helped Ricky make it to the most important finish line in sport, it also helped David come back from over a year face down on his belly suffering from pressure sores and other major health issues.
“Training with Ricky was everything in terms of my recovery,” admits Bailey.
So when Ricky James came toward the finish that evening in Kona, Bailey was there to greet him. The Ironman had given Ricky James a purpose and a goal that he desperately needed after being paralyzed. And being connected to Ricky James’ journey pushed David Bailey to get out of the house and to get himself back in the game.
What happened next? David Bailey returned to Kona in 2009, finished second in the handcycle division, and went 11:35:38.
A few 📷from 2009 @IRONMANtri
Champions @CrowieAlexander & @chrissiesmiles at the finish line at midnight, Chrissie and @Mirindacarfrae after Rinny’s 2nd place finish at her Ironman debut, with a 2:56:51 run, and with @IronmanVoice before the Awards Dinner pic.twitter.com/nINytXMZYk
— Bob Babbitt (@Bob_Babbitt) September 21, 2018
For 2008, I featured Ricky James and his Ironman finish, after getting paralyzed in a motocross race. His finish touched a lot of people, including his mentor: David Bailey. I wrote about David’s return to the 2009 Ironman in: Mile Marker 86
From the archives: Here is an interview with Chrissie Wellington after she won her 3rd title in a row, filmed at a Tri Club San Diego meeting in 2009
During race week in 2009, I sat down with Dave Scott and Mark Allen to talk about their 1989 Iron War, on the 20th anniversary of that epic race at the Ironman World Championship.