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Triathlete of the Year Award

Author: Tina Wilmott

Date: 10/05/2011

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Triathlon America, an industry organization dedicated to promoting the sport and the business of triathlon, today announced the Ron Smith Triathlete of the Year award. Named after one of triathlon’s earliest pioneers Ron Smith, the award recognizes a male or female triathlete who best demonstrates a combination of strong moral character, athletic performance and professionalism in the sport of triathlon.

“We’ve named the Triathlete of the Year award after Ron Smith because he exemplifies the spirit and legacy of our sport,” said Jack Caress, President of Triathlon America. “We hold the future winners of this award in the highest esteem not only for their athletic accomplishments, but because they embody the same attributes Ron did throughout his life. He was a great mentor to all of us.”

Ron began competing in triathlons in the 1970s and won several age group championships. However, he is best known as a dedicated coach and mentor to many of the world’s most talented triathletes in the 1980s including Scott Tinley, Paula Newby-Fraser, Mark Allen and many more. Those who knew Ron described him as a role model to all, and he has been credited with growing the sport from a hobby to way of life for elite athletes.

“Ron Smith was the kind of person that somehow inspired you to wake up in the middle of the night and ask, ‘could I have done better with my life today?’ He would face a particular challenge or problem, and instead of simply forging ahead or calculating an end run, Ron would ask himself how he and those around him might get to the other side and become better people for their struggles,” said Scott Tinley, Ironman Hall of Famer and two-time Ironman World Champion. “Triathlon appealed to Ron because it was challenging and full of interesting people. He admired the underdog and bootstrapped kid more than he did the genetically gifted. More than anyone, Ron Smith realized how sport could enable the better mettle of a man or woman to find its way to the surface.”

Paula Newby-Fraser, eight-time Ironman World Champion, stated, “Ron Smith was the father of triathlon to me and the core community that launched the sport of triathlon in San Diego so many years ago.  He led us all with his quiet strength of action and relentless pursuit of what may be possible in what was the new arena of endurance that we were all just trying to learn, test, understand and explore. His words for me were always calmly direct and incredibly supportive in a manner that made me never doubt that I would succeed. He and those around him gave the sport of triathlon the unshakeable foundation on which we achieved all that we have today.”

Ron’s dedication to and love of the sport was also embraced by his children. “I am so proud of my dad for all that he accomplished in his life,” said daughter Rachelle Morton. “Triathlon and Ironman training was just one of the many challenging adventures he took in his 78 years. He was a dedicated and driven man in everything that he did, and taught not only his children, but all who were lucky enough to call him ‘coach’ to do the same. I was fortunate enough to fall in love with the sport of triathlon because of my dad and feel that I carry him with me every time I do a workout or a race. I miss him every day, but it makes it easier knowing that he touched so many people with his infectious passion for life and the sport of triathlon. Thank you for honoring the Smith family by naming this award in our dad's name.”

The Ron Smith Triathlete of the Year will be selected by the National Voting Panel (NVP) consisting of all Triathlon America founding members and 10 additional award panel members prominent within the industry. The award will be presented on the final night of the second annual Triathlon America Conference that will take place in San Diego, CA, February 27 – March 1, 2012. Conference details are available at

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