Did Gaby Deserve More?













A few days ago, USAT posted their 2018 Athletes of the Year. We were happy to see that Minnesota's GABY BUNTEN received an Open Honorable Mention. Very well deserved.

A great case, we believe, can be made for Gaby winning not only the Open AOY, but the overall AOY, as well. Before we talk about that, we'll mention that in the last two years, and in 2000, USAT decided to name a Master or a Grand Master as the overall Athlete of the Year. We understand and appreciate this....


This year's female AOY was 66-year-old Missy LeStrange (Photo - top center), a sixteen-time Ironman Age Group World Champion, who is one of America's true triathlon pioneers.

Why did she win the Overall AOY? In a nutshell, she won FOUR World Championship gold medals (Kona, Olympic Worlds, Sprint Worlds and 70.3 Worlds), and her 12:28:43 at Kona lowered her previous 65-69W record by almost four minutes.


Gotta love a resume like that. Some might argue, however, that in her eight AG tri wins, she beat a total of 164 65-69 women. Whereas, with a tri resume that included five wins in seven starts, including a National Championship title and an overall silver at Worlds, Gaby Bunten was beaten by only two American women in 2018 (Hanna Grinaker at Minneapolis, and Kate Vermann at NYC). She outraced thousands of athletes last year.

So, does Gaby's resume seem more award-worthy to you than Missy's?

Next, there is a strong case to be made that Gaby deserved the Open AOY over three-time AOY Kirsten Sass (Photo - top right). Compare their highlights:


- Regional tri wins - Riverbluff, Memphis in May Olympic, Memphis in May Sprint, Chattanooga Waterfront, Music City 

- Nationals - 5th overall woman

- Olympic Worlds - 18th overall woman

- Sprint Worlds - 7th overall women



- Regional tri wins - Trinona, South Beach, Heart of the Lakes Sprint (CR)

- Plus - 1st @ Arizona 70.3, 2nd @ Minneapolis, 2nd @ New York City

- Nationals - 1st overall woman 

- Olympic Worlds - 2nd overall woman / 1st American


Because the MMA Selectors give head-to-head battles a little extra weight, we would favor Gaby over Kirsten. They faced each other in two tris  last season (Nationals and Worlds) and Gaby won both times. Perhaps the USAT selectors believed that Sass' had a stronger regional resume, i.e. that she faced stronger fields in non-championship events than did Bunten. It does appear that she received extra points for her efforts as a paratriathlete guide.

So, we confess to be a tad disappointed that Gaby did not take the Open AOY. And though we're okay with the selection of LeStrange as Overall AOY, we believe that Gaby's resume was also worthy of that award. Beating EVERY American woman at both Nationals and Worlds, for us, gave her an edge.

Still, we congratuate Missy (and Kirsten), and applaud USAT for honoring the athletes of America.


0 #1 Susan Woods 2019-03-08 19:55
It would be great if organizations giving out awards were more transparent up front about what the critieria are. When they aren’t it makes things seem political vs fair.

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