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Pat Bigold

The Way I See It

By Pat Bigold

Tuesday, September 19, 2000

McMahon pulls
shocker in triathlon

DEBBIE Hornsby is happy with her job as assistant dean at the Academy of the Pacific.

But Hornsby said she can't get it out of her mind that she beat an Olympic gold medalist.

And not just once.

When Hornsby heard that her former island rival, Brigitte McMahon, had won the gold medal in a major upset in the first Olympic triathlon in Sydney last Friday, she said, "I was taken aback."

And, for just a moment, the 36-year-old educator indulged herself.

"I thought, oh my God, what if I had ..."

Hornsby doesn't regret the path she took.

She knows what's required to become an Olympic medal contender.

Total dedication of mind, body and pocketbook for years.

"I'm really proud of her," said Hornsby. "She's the queen right now."

And no one knows any better than Hornsby how far Brigitte McMahon came to the gold medal.

She recalled how McMahon, then Brigitte Huber, "was right on my tail" in the 1993 Tinman Triathlon.

"She was ahead in transition from bike to run, and then I put two-and-a-half minutes on her and won," she said. "I also beat her in the Windward Triathlon by seven minutes."

Hornsby and another triathlon rival/friend of McMahon's, Heather Jorris, said it was after Brigitte Huber met two-time Tinman Triathlon champion Mike McMahon in the masters swim program at Duke Kahanamoku Pool that she attempted her first triathlon.

Huber had been a national class swimmer in her native Switzerland enrolling for post-graduate study at the University of Hawaii eight years ago.

She and McMahon, who lived in Hawaii for 10 years, were married near the Diamond Head beach in 1997. The couple moved to Switzerland where she gave birth to son, Dominic, and she then intensified her training.

Gone for three years in Europe, no one had seen them in the islands until this year.

The McMahons came to Oahu in April, just before the triathlon world cup race in Sydney.

"I trained with her for four weeks," said Jorris, a triathlete and trainer at the Honolulu Club. "Then she went down there and got second to Michellie Jones."

It was Jones, the Australian favorite, who was beaten by McMahon in the last 100 meters of the Olympic triathlon run.

THE trip back to the islands in the spring served a dual purpose. Mike is finishing his PhD in physiology through UH. The couple will stop here again in a few weeks en route back to Switzerland.

On Aug. 26, McMahon finished ahead of everyone -- men and women -- in the Hickam Triathlon.

"I caught her on the bike and I was already pushing (myself) when we came into the transition area," said top isle triathlete Peter Hursty. "I should have gotten her to sign my helmet."

She also joined the Labor Day Roughwater Swim, wearing a wet suit.

All who knew her could see that McMahon was at a formidable level of fitness.

A level they never imagined she would attain.

When friends who watched the NBC delayed broadcast of the triathlon saw McMahon emerge from well behind in the run and overtake Jones with powerful strides uphill, they were aghast.

"She was one of us," said one local triathlete in reflection. "She was one of the better women in Hawaii but not the best. She just looked so different."

Pat Bigold has covered sports for daily newspapers
in Hawaii and Massachusetts since 1978.

E-mail to Sports Editor

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