Triathlete of the Year: 2008
In over ten years of racing Joanna Zeiger has won and done almost everything a women professional can do in the sport of triathlon.
She’s an Olympian.
She’s multiple Ironman winner.
She’s an ITU Champion.
She’s won too many 70.3 races to list.
She is the 2008 70.3 Ironman World Champion!
Oh yes, she also happens to be a working scientist with a PHD.
This year alone she’s won at Eagleman, a 2nd place at Buffalo Springs, a win at Vineman, a win at the 5430 triathlon, and a win at Muskoka.
For all these reason and many more, Joanna Zeiger is our pick for the:
2008 TRIATHLETE OF THE YEAR!
Our editorial team was made up of twelve triathletes. These
individuals represent coaches, race directors, triathlon product
manufactures, amateur triathletes, professional triathletes, triathlon
news board administrators, and triathlon business owners.
In other words, they made up a leading and representative cross section of the triathlon community.
We had a very hard time picking this year's triathlete of the year because so many possible triathletes stood out. But in the end we selected Joanna Zeiger, not only because she won almost every single race she entered this year...
Not only because she won the 70.3 Ironman Championships...
Not only because at 39-years-of age she just keeps getting better and better...
But because 2008 represents a very big Cherry for Zeiger on a long and illustrious career.
Click HERE to listen, or download, to our podcast with Joanna Zeiger---recorded right after she won this year's 70.3 Ironman World Championships.
Our criteria for selecting the 2008 Triathlete of the Year were very straightforward.
We were looking for someone who is first and foremost a great
triathlete. This athlete should have either had the best year of their
lives racing triathlons. In other words, this athlete has won at least
one significant race in 2008. That race could be as a professional, or
as a age group athletes.
We were looking for someone who has significantly contributed in a positive way to the sport of triathlon in 20008. This means that this year's winner has done something outstanding to benefit the sport. This could be in terms of charity, or innovation, courage, or just plain benefit to the larger community.
With this in mind here is our list of the:
Besides winning the world Ironman championships, Craig Alexander won or placed highly in about every race he's entered this year. As a father, world champion, and all around exceptional triathlete, Craig represents was one of the hardest working athletes in the sport in 2008.
The same holds true for Chrissie Wellington as Criag Alexander (she's won about everything she's entered), plus she brings a new and healthy attitude and outlook to the sport that's goes well beyond only winning for the sake of winning.
Joe Bonness has raced over 55 Ironman races in his long and winning amateur career. Every year he almost always wins his age-group at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, the Great Floridian Triathlon, and Ironman Florida, and now even Ironman Arizona. That's at least three Ironman races and three top age group podiums in in two months. Not bad for an amateur triathlete.
Jamie Whitmore was at the top of her sport (Xterra) for six years, and now she's using all of her strength and courage for an altogether different battle. She's spent the last year fighting cancer that has stripped her of both career and health. But she's battles cancer in very public and very courageous way that has inspired many more to follow her lead and battle on.
We congratulate all of these incredible athletes for their incredible year, and we end with a few words from our triathlete of the year.
The World Championship Stripes
by Joanna Zeiger
All of the years I have been racing, I have longed to don the World Championship stripes. The rainbow stripes of the World Champion are a symbol of excellence and can be worn with pride; yes, I coveted such a jersey and dreamed of the day I would be worthy of one.
My road to the top of the World Championship podium was a rocky one, one that could only be navigated by the most cautious yet daring driver; a driver without fear. My early years in triathlon seemed smooth sailing to those watching from afar. Despite many successes, those years were marred by endless trips to the medical tent, learning how to deal with exercise induced asthma, frustrations on the ITU circuit and balancing a heavy academic load with global racing. Ultimately, I look upon those years with great memories – during that time I raced for my country in the Olympic Games and those were my most consistent races in the Hawaii Ironman – and now realize those were the simple and less complicated times.
The year 2001 marked a turning point in my career as a professional triathlete. While one of my most successful, it was the year I was a bronze medalist at the ITU World Championships, it was also the year I incurred a back injury that would plague me for the next 3 years. I raced continuously with mixed success, but always with some amount of pain and always with the fear of not being able to finish. In 2004, I was rescued by Amie Moriarty and Chuck Wolf at the National Training Center in Clermont, FL. My years of back pain were banished and my career revived.
I went on to win two Ironman titles and other triathlons. I felt rejuvenated, back to doing what I loved the most. I still harbored hopes of winning a World Championship title. An ITU crown was out of the question, so Kona seemed my only chance. Ah, the race in Kona. It is the one race that still eludes me! It seems not to matter if I toed the line healthy or injured, fit or not, since the year 2000 I have not been able to nail that race. When my focus switched this year to my most natural distance, the 70.3, the stripes were within reach. The training Dr. Phil Skiba devised was spot on and my racing showed it. It was now up to me to unleash the race of my life. And lo and behold, it happened on a beautiful November day in Clearwater, FL. I earned the privilege and honor to wear the World Championship stripes.
One may ask, why? Why, with all of the frustration, injuries, and uncertainty did I continue? The answer is simple. I felt I could do it. It mattered not that I was getting older, that my competition was getting younger and better, that there were doubters and naysayers and those who told me to hang it up and move on. Ultimately, I enjoy training, racing, and pushing myself to the limit. I have travelled the world. I have met the most giving and nicest people. Although this journey has been difficult, I can say without hesitation and without ambiguity: it is worth it.
Race hard, have fun,