- Tinley wins in 1985. Photo: Lois Schwartz
- Dave Scott wins his second title. Photo: Tracy Frankel
- Molina wins in 1988. Photo: Lois Schwartz
- The Ironwar was a legendary race in '89. Photo: Lois Schwartz
- Mark Allen wins his World Championship. Photo: Lois Schwartz
- Scott Tinley. Photo: Lois Schwartz
- Dave Scott crosses the line in 1980. Photo: Carol Hogan
Dave Scott, Mark Allen, Scott Tinley and Scott Molina. Four names – The Big Four – that were instrumental in turning Ironman into the sport that it is today. Between 1982 and 1987 these four me won pretty much everything there was going, cementing their place in triathlon history. In the following account, Scott Molina recalls the years when the Big Four came to be.
By Scott Molina
THE FACTS ARE THESE: Six U.S. national titles, 10 Nice victories and 15 Kona wins. When you look at those totals now among the hundreds of wins the four of us were able to accrue, it’s clear that we had an edge. Much has been written about what made Scott Tinley, Mark Allen and Dave Scott legendary, and that’s what I’m setting out to tell you. But you won’t find any interviews or quotes from Dave, Mark or Scott here. There’s been no attempt whatsoever to include any view but my own.
What I have to offer is a brief summary of my thoughts concerning the men I did battle with for more than a decade. What made them tick, their strengths and weaknesses, and how I could beat them consumed a very large percentage of my brain, both consciously and subconsciously during my entire pro career.
What I also hope to show is the tremendous amount of respect I have for these men. Even though I could write a book on the subject, because of the uncomfortable level of anxiety I’ve experienced in putting my thoughts down here for the public record, it’s unlikely that there will be any further writing from me on them. The contribution they’ve made to our sport deserves to be chronicled by someone who can accurately convey their impact. This effort from me only covers the early years, so there’s no attempt to put their entire careers into perspective.
I will rest easier knowing that if I should be run over by a truck tomorrow, my version of my early years with them will be down on paper.
AN EXCLUSIVE CLUB: This small club began in 1982. Although Dave had already won the Ironman on Oahu before that, the rest of us had yet to surface. If one were to look at our upbringings and backgrounds to that point the similarities are easy to see.
We were all:
• Born between 1954 and 1960.
• Grew up in warmer parts of California, which encouraged year-round outdoor sports.
• Had parents who encouraged sports and siblings who also participated in them.
• Mark, Dave and I were all young competitive swimmers.
• Rode bikes to get around as kids (I even had a paper route done by bike).
Perhaps having these factors in common isn’t defining, but coupled with the fact that we all arrived at the very first pro race together seems to me to be more than coincidence.
The first triathlon to offer prize money was the initial Bud Light USTS race in June in Del Mar, Calif. Back then the distances included a 2K swim, 40K bike and 15K run. The prize money paid three deep: $500, $300, $200.
Heading down to the beach at Torrey Pines, there was a very strong vibe that something significant was getting under way. Even though triathlons had been in existence for a few years by then, there seemed to be a bit of spit and polish applied to this event. The press was there; photographers and even some spectators showed up. There was talk of great things to come, and it was hard not to be impressed and caught up in the momentum.
The event itself was a damn hard one. The sea was huge, the hills were tough and the run was fast. And that’s not exaggerated through the passage of time. Even the USTS series events were very hard to begin with. They only gradually became homogenized after the first few years.
Dave absolutely smashed us on both the swim and bike and won handily. The rest of us were rather close by the end of the bike and ran most of the run together. Mark dropped off somewhere near the end of the run and came in fourth place, and I managed to out-sprint Scott for second place.
Scott had the good manners to introduce himself and shake my hand in the first couple of miles of the run. He looked quite relaxed and quite the veteran. We ended up running around 51 flat for the 15km, and it seemed to me that Scott could have run that pace forever. I was very impressed.
Over the course of that year and the next four years, this little club would continue to scoop up just about every significant win in the U.S. and many others around the world. Dave and Scott won in Kona, Mark won in Nice, France. My forte was the USTS Series.
Dave won when Ironman branched out to Japan, and I won when Ironman created family events in Los Angeles and New Zealand.
Since Scott, Mark and I were all sponsored by Team J-David from the beginning of ’83, we trained together nearly every day—often three sessions per day—and traveled together as well. We became good friends, even opting to all live within a mile of each other in Del Mar.
When something is working for you there’s little reason to change, and it wasn’t until the summer of ’85 when I went to Boulder, Colo., for altitude training that we had any significant time away from each other.
As the USTS continued to grow throughout the U.S., it was hard for anyone else to get a taste of our success. On the male side of the sport I can’t recall many significant prize money events in the U.S. not won by our exclusive club before ’87. Guys like Ken Glah were always knocking on the door but not quite getting in.Pages: 1 2 3