The Enduring Fight over the first Ironman Triathlon – part I

Zeer interessant artikel in The New York Times vandaag over de eeuwige strijd die triathlonpionier @John Dunbar voert over de rechten van Ironman. Dunbar deed mee aan de eerste twee Ironmans op Hawaii. Voor de eerste vroeg founder John Collins 5 dollar inleggeld. Dunbar interpreteert dat nog steeds als een soort eigendom. De 5 dollar van toen zijn de 650 miljoen van nu (Wanda Group). Dunbar – 65 inmiddels – procedeert nog steeds.

The New York Times – by John Branch

HAIKU, Hawaii — On an October night in 1979, a Navy man named John Collins rode his Triumph motorcycle over to the offices of a Honolulu health club. He brought nothing but a box of paperwork.

Collins, credited with starting a quirky competition called the Hawaiian Iron Man Triathlon, had just been reassigned to the mainland. He desperately needed someone to run the third edition of the event. The first two had 15 competitors each.

He handed the box to Hank Grundman and his wife, Valerie Silk.

Inside that box was what now might be considered a billion-dollar idea.

“No money changed hands,” Judy Collins, John’s wife, said in a recent email exchange. “No papers were signed. John handed our box of triathlon paperwork to Grundman.”

Like most big and successful companies, Ironman likes to tell the story of its humble origins, twisting mythology into marketing. But it usually leaves out the most intriguing part — about a box that changed hands in the night, and about the people who are still angry about it, nearly four decades later.

It was Silk, Grundman’s wife at the time, who spun the contents of that box into gold. Ironman grew, exponentially and steadily, into the world’s most iconic test of endurance and one of the globe’s premier sports brands. It is now owned by a Chinese conglomerate called Dalian Wanda Group, which paid $650 million for it in 2015. Ironman puts on more than 260 races in 44 countries, with 680,000 annual participants.

What makes Ironman unusual is that none of the people there at the creation of the event made any money from its success. Forty years later, that still rankles some of them, who say it should never have been given away in the first place, or sold by Silk nearly a decade after it was handed to her to organize.

No one is bothered more than John Dunbar, the runner-up in the first two races. He has boxes, too, but they are filled with court papers asserting his role and his rights in the birth of the event. They never amounted to anything.

Dunbar is a main character in Ironman’s origin story, a bit of a legendary figure. He led the first race, in 1978, until a couple of cold beers near the end did him in. He finished second the next year, too, in a pivotal contest as epic as the first, nudging Ironman toward fame and fortune.

Dunbar believes Ironman belongs to him and 14 others who competed in the first race, including Collins. He has made the argument for decades, even after the courts told him it was too late, even after other original competitors who stood beside him, including the original champion, Gordon Haller, shrugged and gave up on claiming a part of what they still think should be theirs.

Wim van den Broek

Wilde in 1983 iets anders dan alleen hard fietsen, stapte snel over op microfoons uittesten, één van de drijvende krachten achter één van de oudste triatlons: Oud-Gastel, figureert in misdaadseries en mag zich ridder zonder paard noemen.

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