Because these go to 11…..
Even though I left Competitor in 2014, I will always treasure the brand that I am proud to have created and nurtured with my partner Lois Schwartz. I have kept copies of every issue we produced, from our first issue in June of 1987, through 2012. In my mind, being a hoarder is a good thing because taking a minute to leaf through any issue brings back amazing memories. The great part about that era was getting to grow our magazine and our sports while also getting to cover the careers of Dave Scott, Mark Allen, Scott Tinley, Scott Molina, Paula Newby–Fraser, and so many of the legends of endurance sports.
So what are my top 11 Competitor Magazine covers of all time? I am so glad you asked!
England’s Spencer Smith was a two-time ITU World Champion (1993 and 1994) whose body type, personality, and sense of style set him apart from the other professional triathletes he raced against. What made him great was his ability to simply dig deep and hurt more than the other guy. This particular image of Spencer outkicking 1994 Ironman World Champion Greg Welch, one of the best runners in the sport, speaks volumes about his toughness.
Jim Knaub was an Olympic Trials pole vaulter before he was paralyzed while on his motorcycle. He became a top wheelchair athlete and won the Boston Marathon five times in his racing chair. Jim changed the perception of what people could accomplish in a chair and he wasn’t shy about telling the world that wheelers were athletes. More importantly, he was the guy going to rehab centers to show paralyzed patients that there was life after tragedy, that while their lives might be different, they didn’t have to be worse.
The year was 1988. I thought Jim’s story was remarkable. When we put Jim Knaub on the cover of the magazine I had no idea that we were the first mainstream publication to showcase a wheelchair athlete on its cover. I guess that was foreshadowing of things to come.
He had both legs amputated above the knee when he was six years old. He was told that he would never walk without a walker and that no double above knee amputee on prosthetic legs would ever run. This is our 2006 cover of Rudy Garcia-Tolson, who would go on to become a two-time Paralympic Gold Medalist at 200 IM, a three-time Paralympian, and the only double above knee amputee to finish an Ironman.
No Legs, No Limits.
Heading into the 15th anniversary of the Ironman in 1993, I wanted to put together a very special cover. At that point, Dave Scott had won six titles, Paula Newby-Fraser had five and Mark Allen had four, a total of 15 to go with the anniversary celebration. It’s funny, when we got to the 20th anniversary of Ironman in 1998, we could have used the same cover since Paula was at eight wins with Dave and Mark both at six!
Photographer CJ Oliveres and I were chatting before a race and I asked him to do me a favor back in 1987. Could he grab the best four guys in triathlon – Dave Scott, Scott Molina, Mark Allen, and Scott Tinley – and do a ‘Big Four’ shot for our cover? No problem, said CJ.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Okay, so this one was a little different. The year was 1995 and baseball star Cal Ripken was about to break Lou Gehrig’s record for playing the most consecutive major league baseball games. Two-time Ironman World Champion Scott Tinley was about to complete 2,000 consecutive MILES in Kona at the Ironman. Since Cal Ripken had been nicknamed the Ironman, what could be better than getting the two together for a Club 2000 photo shoot? Not being much of a baseball fan, ST wanted to know why we had to go to Ripken’s house, why couldn’t this guy just come out to San Diego for the photo op?
I finally convinced ST that it would be worthwhile, that he would enjoy meeting Cal. Turns out that the two of them hit it off immediately, that Ripken was an Ironman and Scott Tinley fan. In fact, Ripken had caught an elbow over the eye the night before our scheduled visit and had to get stitches to close the wound, but he never thought about cancelling because he looked forward to meeting ST. What made the day special was that the two of them were like-minded athletes from two different coasts and two different sports.
I was interviewing pro triathlete Brad Kearns and we got to chatting about a force of nature in the sport of duathlon named Kenny Souza. He wore his hair long, he favored fluorescent colored banana hammocks with the top of his racing kit knotted in the back. He had a Victory or Death tattoo on his arm, and back in 1990 he was at the peak of his powers. Kenny was one of those athletes who either won and destroyed everyone or blew up trying. “We call him Kenny Kaboom,” laughed Kearns.
Tying that fun graphic to Lois Schwartz’s epic shot of Kenny Kaboom out of the saddle and out of control made that cover one of my all-time favorites.
Heading into the 1990 Ironman, Paula Newby-Fraser now had victories in 1986, 1988, and 1989. Erin Baker won in 1987 and was second to Newby-Fraser in 1988. It would turn out that Baker would win in 1990 with Newby-Fraser second and Newby-Fraser would win in both 1991 and 1993 with Erin Baker in second. Like Dave Scott and Mark Allen, they were the very best in the sport. They were two women in a small sport who both wanted to win the same race. When we went into the studio for this photo shoot with Paula Newby-Fraser and Erin Baker, you could cut the tension in the room with a knife. Neither one wanted to spend time hanging out with their biggest rival, with someone they would have to beat to win the biggest prize in their sport.
It was awesome!
The six-time Ironman World Champion was now 42 years old. The year was 1996 and Dave Scott was planning to come back to Kona at least one more time. After his classic IronWar battle with Mark Allen in 1989 where he took 18 minutes off his world record time of 8:28 and still came up short to Allen, Scott had only been healthy enough to get to the starting line on the Big Island once, and that was two years earlier in 1994 after he had turned 40. Since his first Ironman win back in 1980 on Oahu when he took nearly two hours off the course record, Scott had become the Roger Bannister of the event. He was the first person under 10 hours, the first under 9 hours, and the first under 8:30. He was the first champion to run sub 3:00 for the marathon, and then followed that up by becoming the first to go sub 2:55 and sub 2:50.
The fact that he had finished second to Greg Welch in 1994 at the age of 40 and gotten to within 11 seconds as the two headed into the Natural Energy Lab meant that you could never count ‘The Man’ out. If the ‘Legend of the Fall’ was planning to race in 1996, you knew he’d be ready to have a great one.
The year was 1986, and the first woman across the Ironman World Championship finish line was Patricia Puntous of Canada, who had finished second to her twin sister, two-time champion Sylvianne, in both 1983 and 1984. While Patricia was being told that she had been disqualified from the race for drafting during the bike, the second place finisher, Paula Newby-Fraser was being told that she was the champion. In 1987 Newby-Fraser finished in third place, five minutes behind New Zealand’s Erin Baker. So when she went to the start line in 1988, people wondered if Newby-Fraser’s 1986 win was a fluke, that she had had her 15 minutes of fame.
1988 changed everything. Newby-Fraser didn’t just win, she beat Erin Baker by over 11 minutes, went 9:01:01, took 39 minutes off her personal best in Kona and 34 minutes off the course record.
The battles in Kona throughout the 1980’s between Mark Allen and Dave Scott were epic. Mark Allen dominated around the world while Dave Scott dominated in the one event that mattered most, the Ironman Triathlon World Championship. On October 14, 1989, in his seventh attempt, after calamity after calamity, Mark Allen finally knocked off ‘The Man.’ Lois Schwartz’s classic image of the six-time champion Scott and Allen side-by-side next to the simplest of words – IRONWAR – told the story. The race had yet to be decided with less than two miles to go and the two were perfectly color coordinated with Allen in yellow and Scott in green. That cover captured the essence of a rivalry that fueled the growth of a sport throughout that decade. For Allen, after years of frustration, winning that title by beating the most imposing personality in the sport on the best day Scott ever had in Kona – he broke his own course record by 18 minutes and lost – meant a changing of the guard. Allen went on to win five more titles and ended up with the same total (six) as Scott.
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Paula Newby-Fraser is known as the Queen of Kona, and rightfully so. From 1985-1996 she won the Ironman World Championship eight times, took second once, third twice, and fourth once. We call that domination! Paula came on to chat about her first triathlon and Ironman experience, her long time rivalry with New Zealand’s Erin Baker, and how she came back to win in 1996 after her collapse the year before. LISTEN here.