Kirsten Hanssen – 1988
When the 1988 triathlon season began there was no doubt about Kirsten’s affinity for the winner’s circle. The 5-foot-3 “Wonder Woman” owned an incredible 16 titles, including the World Championship, and dominated all distances: international, long and sprint. She was the first woman ever to win back-to-back U.S. National titles, the first to win two Triple Crown races in one year,
and the only U.S. athlete to win both the Nationals and the Grand Prix Cumulative Points Series two years in a row. In 1987 alone, she had earned more than $100,000 in prizes and endorsements.
Continuing her torrid pace in 1988, the 1987 Triathlete of the Year upset the defending champion in the Mountain Man Winter Triathlon and won the $105,000 America’s Paradise spectacular.
She seemed invincible until tendonitis struck both of her knees.
By June, she was back in the winner’s circle, but then in July, an auto/bicycle accident left her with two broken wrist bones, a skinned side and an arm cast to wear for the rest of the year.
With her hopes for National and Grand Prix three-peats sidelined, the 26-year-old Coloradan called upon her towering inner strength to overcome the injuries and regain her No. 1 status. Winning five more short-course races, she managed to finish a close second in both the year-end points standings and Triathlete of the Year polls.
The highlight of Kirsten’s tireless endeavor, however, was her October debut in the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii. Although handicapped by her cast in the first two events, she still finished third in the women’s final standings—just two minutes off the course record with an overall time of 9 hours, 37 minutes, 35 seconds for 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of bicycling and 26.2 miles of running. She trailed only the 1986 and 1987 winners and was the No. 1 American woman and 63rd finisher among all participants in the famed three-part endurance test.