USA Triathlon (USAT) and the multisport community celebrated the achievements of four triathlon legends on Friday night, as Cherie Gruenfeld, Richard Eugene ‘Dick’ Hoyt and Richard Eugene ‘Rick’ Hoyt, Jr, and Mike Plant (posthumous) were inducted into the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame.
The gala and ceremony, benefiting the USA Triathlon Foundation, were held in Tempe in conjunction with the inaugural Endurance Exchange conference hosted by USA Triathlon and Triathlon Business International.
The inductees, who make up the Hall of Fame’s 10th induction class, were joined by more than 265 friends, family members and triathlon fans for the evening of celebration. The event began with a red-carpet experience and meet-and-greet with past Hall of Fame inductees, elite athletes and public figures in the triathlon community, and was followed by a formal dinner and ceremony. Barry Siff, former President of USA Triathlon’s Board of Directors, served as the evening’s emcee.
Hailey Danz, 2016 Paralympic silver medallist and six-time ITU Paratriathlon World Championships medallist, delivered the keynote speech. A member of the Toyota US Paratriathlon Resident Team at the Colorado Springs Olympic and Paralympic Training Center, Danz spoke about the multisport community that has supported her throughout her career and the power the sport has to change people’s lives.
“We all have a legacy that’s waiting to be written,” Danz said. “You don’t have to be a world champion to be a hero and you don’t have to move mountains to make a difference. Often times our biggest impact is made in the small, everyday interactions.
“It’s offering a word of encouragement to the swimmer in the next lane. It’s giving your spare tube to a first-time racer in transition. It’s celebrating your teammates’ success as if it’s your own. It’s taking a new athlete under your wing and showing them the ropes of our great sport. It’s remembering all the times you were supported and offering that same support to others.”
She continued, “We are in the small minority of the population that has been fortunate enough to have our lives transformed through our involvement in this incredible sport. That is a beautiful gift. With that gift is a responsibility to pay it forward.
“To share that gift with the people who have not yet experienced it. To enhance our fellow athletes’ experience in the sport. To leave triathlon a little bit better than how we found it. My wish for all of you is that over the course of the evening you’ll find inspiration in these incredible athletes’ stories who have given so much to this beautiful sport.”
Dick and Rick Hoyt (Holland, Massachusetts) are the first push-assist team to be inducted into the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame, and Rick is the first inductee with a disability. The father-son team complete triathlons, marathons and other endurance events together. Rick Hoyt, who was born with cerebral palsy and quadriplegia, communicates using an interactive computer. The duo started racing together in 1985, when Rick was a teenager, and have since completed more than 1,000 endurance events together.
USA Triathlon Hall of Fame member and long-time Boston Marathon race director Dave McGillvray introduced the Hoyts, telling the story of how he met the famous push-assist team at the Boston Marathon – the iconic race the duo would go on to run 37 times.
“I looked upon them with bewilderment,” McGillivray said. “What is this? Someone is actually pushing another person in a wheelchair? I’d never seen that before. I waited for them at the finish line as I just had to find out who they were and what this was all about. That began a 40-year relationship and friendship between us.
“I asked Dick if he wanted to do my Bay State Triathlon. He said, ‘Not without Rick.’ I thought, ‘how is he going to do this?’ As we all know, the rest is history. They did it and never looked back.”
‘Team Hoyt’ became the first duo ever to complete the IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, in 1989, and repeated the feat in 1999. Over three decades, they have paved the way for the countless push-assist teams around the world who participate in endurance sports today.
“This is what we did together, as a father and son,” said Dick Hoyt, who spoke on behalf of himself and his son, Rick. “Rick is such a great kid. He’s just like you and me, he lives on his own. He’s just a great kid and now we’ve got all these Team Hoyt organizations in different states. That is something I’m very proud of.
Unable to attend, Rick Hoyt addressed the crowd in a recorded video message. “Thanks for the honor. Wish I could be there. Dad, I love you,” he said.
Cherie Gruenfeld (Cathedral City, California) expressed gratitude for her loved ones and the multisport community as a whole for fuelling her achievements. She has impacted the triathlon community not only through her competitive success as an age group athlete, but also through her influence on the lives of at-risk youth through her non-profit organization, Exceeding Expectations.
“I’ve got a real big family supporting me,” Gruenfeld said. “I have to tell you, I’ve hit the jackpot with my family. For some reason, these people who aren’t triathletes, they get it. They understand how demanding this sport is and they understand why I want to do this and keep doing it even though I’ve aged up to 75 and clearly my best race times are behind me.
“But they still support me, love me and understand what it’s all about. I’m a very lucky lady.”
Gruenfeld is a 13-time IRONMAN world champion, multiple age group course record holder and a three-time IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion. She is the founder of Exceeding Expectations, a San Bernardino-based non-profit that encourages at-risk youth to move their lives in a positive direction using triathlon as a vehicle. The program prioritizes education, and through the support of generous donors, Gruenfeld has been able to ensure that money will not be an obstacle for ‘EE Scholars’ who are accepted into college.
Mike Plant (Escondido, California) was honoured posthumously, and his wife Cathy Plant and their two daughters, Kendall and McKenna, accepted the honour on his behalf.
An author, photographer, journalist and entrepreneur for more than 40 years, Plant’s career in multisport spanned almost the entire lifespan of the industry. He was the co-founding publisher of the San Diego-based Running and Track Club News in the late 1970s. During the 1980s and ‘90s, his work appeared in national publications, including Runner’s World, Ultrasport, Outside, Elle and Women’s Sports & Fitness.
He was a writer, segment producer and on-air colour commentator for endurance sports productions by NBC, CBS, ESPN and numerous local TV affiliates across the US in the 1980s. He is the author of ‘Iron Will’; co-author with Scott Tinley of ‘Scott Tinley’s Winning Triathlon’, and co-founder with Tinley of comprehensive triathlon history database, TriHistory.com.
“When we were writing articles about IRONMAN, Mike would say, ‘listen, forget about the stats; people can find that anywhere. I want to know: what’s the story? What is the heart and soul of that event that you just covered? That’s what you write,’” said Bob Babbitt, USA Triathlon Hall of Fame member who co-founded Competitor Magazine with Plant.
“I took that to heart. I’d look at every story from Mike Plant’s angle. In that race with 2,000 people, what was the best story? A lot of the best stories weren’t necessarily from the people in the front; it was people in the middle, people in the back (of the pack). Bring your heart and soul to the story that moves you. That’s what Mike Plant represented to me. That’s what Mike brought to life. That’s what he brought to his family. There is nobody who made a bigger impact on my life than Mike Plant.”
Plant was the finish-line announcer at the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona from 1987-1990. He and his wife Cathy spearheaded marketing and public relations for the Bud Light US Triathlon Series through most of the 1980s, as the couple played a leading role in educating mainstream sports media about the still-emerging sport.
Plant was the Founder and President of Mike Plant & Associates, dba MPA Event Graphics – an industry-leading event services company founded in 2009 that produced promotional signage for event directors and corporations. He passed away in May of 2019, at age 70, from lymphocytic leukaemia.
“At every Hall of Fame induction ceremony, he was so impressed by the inductees,” said his wife, Cathy Plant. “These were people he loved. These were his heroes. He respected them and loved them and he knew how they had impacted the sport. He’d consider this a tremendous honour to be among these fellow Hall of Fame members.
“He celebrated the victories. And these weren’t just victories of crossing the finish line. He would know how to recognize and celebrate the victories of the mind and body and spirit. Some of the best stories he told of the most elite athletes – like (IRONMAN competitor) Mark Allen – were of the quiet moments out on a lava field that were spiritual. Mike’s stories would help you understand the challenge and the internal struggle and strife and triumph of athletes. He wrote about ordinary people who did extraordinary things.”
The USA Triathlon Hall of Fame serves to recognize, honour and commemorate those individuals and groups who have demonstrated excellence in every aspect of multisport — thereby inspiring others to elevate their own performance, participation and community involvement.
Founded in 2008, it has recognized the best performances and contributions in the sport’s history. This year’s class brings the total number of inductees to 45.