12 Finishers of the Original 1978 Hawaii Ironman Triathlon to be Inducted into USA Triathlon Hall of Fame
by USA Triathlon
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The 12 finishers of the original Hawaii Ironman Triathlon held 45 years ago today, Feb. 18, off the coast of Hawaii’s Waikiki Beach today were announced as the 12th induction class of the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame.
The 12 finishers of the original Hawaii Ironman Triathlon and USA Triathlon Hall of Fame Class XII include:
• Gordon Haller
• John Dunbar
• Dave Orlowski
• Ian Emberson
• Sterling Lewis
• Tom Knoll
• Henry Forrest
• Frank Day
• John Collins
• Archie Hapai
• Dan Hendrickson
• Harold Irving
“There is no more iconic triathlon event than Ironman Hawaii. For many athletes, qualifying for this race is the pinnacle of their triathlon journey,” said Steve Sutherland, Chair of the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame Executive Committee. “On the morning of that initial event in 1978, 15 athletes started off for what was then a great unknown, competing over the now famous distances of 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run. Twelve of those athletes finished and we are honored to include them in this class of inductees into the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame.”
The USA Triathlon Hall Fame serves to recognize, honor 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 nearly 50-year history. This year’s class brings the total number of inductees to 59.
Inductees will be honored at a premier gala hosted by the USA Triathlon Foundation on Thursday, Aug. 3 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in conjunction with the 2023 USA Triathlon Nationals Aug. 4-6. The gala will be hosted at Discovery World, starting at 6:15 p.m. CT.
Mike Reilly, legendary announcer and a member of USA Triathlon’s Hall of Fame and IRONMAN Hall of Fame, will serve as the Master of Ceremonies. New this year, the gala will include recognition of the winners of USA Triathlon’s annual Multisport Awards and Athlete of the Year Awards, presented by Wahoo Fitness.
The festivities for the evening will include a VIP cocktail event and Meet & Greet happy hour presented by TicketSocket, dinner, presentation and awards and a silent auction. All proceeds from the gala benefit the USA Triathlon Foundation, which serves to generate a greater impact on the multisport community through charitable giveback and grants that advance the Foundation’s three pillars and transform lives through sport by providing opportunities to swim, bike and run.
Individual tickets are $150 and tables for 10 individuals are available for $1,250. Limited VIP tables are available for $2,750, and sponsorship opportunities are available on a first come, first served basis. Please reach out to Thomas Lenneberg, Executive Director of the USA Triathlon Foundation, at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
To purchase tickets, and to learn more about the USA Triathlon Foundation and the individuals, organizations and programs it supports, visit usatriathlonfoundation.org.
About the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame Class XII and original 1978 Hawaii Ironman Triathlon:
The original “Iron Man” — as it was called then — was the creation of Judy and John Collins, members of the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame Induction Class VI, who had participated in the Mission Bay Triathlon in San Diego in 1974, known as the start of modern triathlon in the U.S. Their goal with the event was to create an endurance sports challenge combining swimming, biking and running that offered athletes the opportunity to race longer than anything they’d done before.
The last page of a three-page rule book written by Judy and John Collins and given to each Hawaii Ironman Triathlon race participant reads the now famous tagline: “Swim 2.4 miles! Bike 112 miles! Run 26.2 miles! Brag for the rest of your life!”
Fifteen competitors — with their own support crews and no aid stations — started the race on Feb. 18, 1978 on the island of O’ahu, Hawai’i with the chance to complete the event and brag for the rest of their lives. Twelve finished, led by Gordon Haller, John Dunbar and Dave Orlowski.
Archie Hapai recorded the day’s fastest swim split in a time of 57 minutes, 35 seconds, followed closely by Ian Emberson, who was a member of the Waikiki Swim Club. Hapai, then a 31-year-old student at the University of Hawaii and a decorated Vietnam veteran, entered the race after a DNF during a 26-mile open water swim a month prior.
“I don’t remember all of the reasons I did the [Ironman], but not finishing the Molokai to Oahu swim along with the faith of my fellow club swimmers probably had something to do with it,” Hapai said in previous interviews.
Then a 27-year-old Navy Communications Specialist, Haller rode the day’s fastest bike split in 6 hours, 56 seconds to cut into Dunbar’s lead. Dunbar, then a 24-year-old former U.S. Navy SEAL, started the run with a 13-minute lead.
Haller ran a 3 hour, 30 minute marathon along the race route to Honolulu's Kapiolani Park, where he finished in the quiet evening without spectators, TV cameras or a public-address announcer screaming his name — far different than the spectacle of today’s IRONMAN World Championships.
He earned the inaugural victory in 11 hours, 46 minutes, and 40 seconds and would go on to finish more than 20 IRONMAN events.
“We were just a bunch of ordinary guys who decided to do it. And other people saw that and decided to do it, too,” Haller said in a previous interview about the race.
Orlowski, then a 22-year-old U.S. Marines veteran, finished third in 13 hours, 59 minutes, 13 seconds. He famously rode the bike in a pair of cut-off jean shorts so he could carry cash in his pockets to buy food and drinks during the ride. He’d go on to race 29 IRONMAN events and frequently spoke about the impact triathlon had on his life. Orlowski passed away in 2020 after a lengthy battle with leukemia.
“It does so much for people, and it’s done so much for me in building my life,” Orlowski said in a previous interview. “When you cross that finish line … it changes your life.”
After the inaugural race, the original 12 competitors would go on to accomplish many other feats in and out of endurance sports.
A U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Tom Knoll finished sixth at the inaugural race. He’d go on to run nearly 200 marathons and ultra-marathons and twice led cross-country charity runs. In 1983, Knoll ran across the U.S. for the Sunshine Foundation and in 2008, he and his son Warren ran 3,300 miles coast to coast in the Freedom Run Across America to support Challenge Athletes Foundation, Wounded Warrior Foundation and the Sunshine Foundation. Knoll passed away in 2018.
Henry Forrest, who finished seventh in the race, completed five more IRONMANs and retired from the U.S. Marine Corps after serving 20 years and reaching the rank of first sergeant. Forrest passed away in 2008 from pancreatic cancer.
A U.S. Naval Academy graduate, Frank Day, finished eighth and would go on to invent the cycling training tool, Power Cranks.
USA Triathlon Hall of Fame Inductees by Class:
Class I (Induction ceremony held Jan. 17, 2009, in Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Judy Flannery (Age-Group Athlete)
Jon Gray Noll (Contributor)
Verne Scott (Contributor)
Karen Smyers (Elite Athlete)
Sheila Taormina (Elite Athlete)
Class II (Induction ceremony held Feb. 13, 2010, in Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Jim Curl (Contributor)
Barb Lindquist (Elite Athlete)
Paula Newby-Fraser (Elite Athlete)
Valerie Silk (Contributor)
Carl Thomas (Contributor)
Class III (Induction ceremony held Jan. 15, 2011, in Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Susan Bradley-Cox (Age-Group Athlete)
Dave McGillivray (Contributor)
Dave Scott (Elite Athlete)
Class IV (Induction ceremony held May 10, 2012, in San Diego)
Mark Allen (Elite Athlete)
Ethel Autorino (Age-Group Athlete)
Bob Babbitt (Contributor)
Sally Edwards (Contributor)
Scott Molina (Elite Athlete)
Scott Tinley (Elite Athlete)
Class V (Induction ceremony held April 18, 2013, in San Diego)
Missy LeStrange (Age-Group Athlete)
Jim MacLaren (Contributor)
Julie Moss (Contributor)
Class VI (Induction ceremony held June 26, 2014, in Chicago)
Sister Madonna Buder (Age-Group Athlete)
John and Judy Collins (Contributors)
Mike Pigg (Elite Athlete)
Tom Warren (Contributor)
Class VII (Induction ceremony held April 18, 2015, in Boston)
Bill Bell (Age-Group Athlete)
Tim DeBoom (Elite Athlete)
Dan Empfield (Contributor)
Karen McKeachie (Age-Group Athlete)
Carlos Moleda (Age-Group Athlete)
Susan Williams (Elite Athlete)
Class VIII (Induction ceremony held Jan. 16, 2016, in Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Harriet Anderson (Age-Group Athlete)
Roger Brockenbrough (Age-Group Athlete)
Ken Glah (Elite Athlete)
Siri Lindley (Elite Athlete)
Class IX (Induction ceremony held Aug. 9, 2018, in Cleveland, Ohio)
Hunter Kemper (Elite Athlete)
Mike Reilly (Contributor)
Donna Smyers (Age-Group Athlete)
James Ward (Age-Group Athlete)
Class X (induction ceremony held Jan. 25, 2020, in Tempe, Ariz.)
Cherie Gruenfeld (Contributor)
Dick and Rick Hoyt (Age-Group Athletes)
Mike Plant (Contributor)
Class XI (induction ceremony held Aug. 4, 2022, in Milwaukee, Wis.)
Laura Bennett (Elite Athlete)
Lesley Cens-McDowell (Age Group Athlete)
Gwen Jorgensen (Elite Athlete)
Robert Plant (Age Group Athlete)
Class XII (induction ceremony to be held Aug. 3, 2023, in Milwaukee, Wis.)
Original 12 Ironman Finishers:
John Collins (Age Group Athlete)
Frank Day (Age Group Athlete)
John Dunbar (Age Group Athlete)
Ian Emberson (Age Group Athlete)
Henry Forrest (Age Group Athlete)
Gordon Haller (Age Group Athlete)
Archie Hapai (Age Group Athlete)
Dan Hendrickson (Age Group Athlete)
Harold Irving (Age Group Athlete)
Tom Knoll (Age Group Athlete)
Sterling Lewis (Age Group Athlete)
Dave Orlowski (Age Group Athlete)
Visit usatriathlon.org/hof for additional information about USA Triathlon Hall of Fame, including all inductee bios.
About the USA Triathlon Foundation
The USA Triathlon Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and the charitable arm of USA Triathlon. With its mission to transform lives through sport by providing opportunities to swim, bike and run, the Foundation serves to generate a greater impact on the multisport community through charitable giveback and grants that advance the Foundation’s three pillars: (1) Encourage youth participation; (2) Inspire pathways to access and inclusion; and (3) Ignite Olympic/Paralympic dreams. Since the Foundation was established in 2014, it has impacted the lives of thousands by providing grants to organizations and individuals in pursuit of its mission and pillars to create a healthier United States through triathlon. To learn more about the Foundation and get involved, please visit usatriathlonfoundation.org.