Scott Molina was onced hailed as one of the world's best triathlon competitors--until it came to the Ironman Triathlon World Championship.
During his heyday from 1982 to 1986, Molina had difficulties in the Ironman event. His best finish was a fourth in '82; he more often than not had to drop out because of exhaustion during the marathon portion of the swim-bike-run endurance event.
After medical difficulties last year, Molina, of Boulder, Colo., was not expected to be a factor in an Ironman again.
But Saturday, he shocked the field with a blazing bicycle portion, holding off Mike Pigg of Arcata, Calif., to win the combined 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bicycle ride and 26.2-mile run in 8 hours 31 minutes. He fell short of the overall record of 8:28:37 set by 6-time winner Dave Scott in 1986. Scott decided Friday night not to race this year because of a knee injury.
Paula Newby-Fraser of Encinitas repeated her 1986 women's victory by shattering the course record and finishing 11th overall.
Her time of 9:01:01 took more than a half-hour off the 9:35:25 mark set last year by Erin Baker of New Zealand. Baker was second Saturday in 9:12:14. Kirsten Hanssen of Denver was the third in 9:37:25.
"I had a bad spell for a while and wanted to do well here to be a spokesman for the sport," said Molina, who was once regarded as the most fanatical trainers among the pros.
Replacing Molina with that distinction as well as on the victory stand the past year has been Pigg, one of Saturday's favorites.
Despite a fast bicycle leg, Molina was only 45 seconds ahead of Pigg at the start of the marathon on the Kona Coast of Hawaii's big island.
But Molina, considered a much stronger runner than Pigg, lengthened his lead during the run.
Pigg's total time was 8:33:11. Ken Glah of West Chester, Pa., was third in 8:38:37. Two-time winner Scott Tinley of Del Mar was fourth in 8:43:11, and Mark Allen of Boulder, Colo., was fifth in 8:43:22.