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HomeNewsArchivesTwo Triathletes Have Opposite Goals: Finishing First and Finishing Last

Two Triathletes Have Opposite Goals: Finishing First and Finishing Last

May 5, 2007 — In the leadup to the 19th St. Croix Half-Ironman Triathlon this weekend, hundreds of people have converged on the Big Island once again, arriving from the four corners of the globe with a thousand different stories and a hundred different reasons for coming.
Two competitors this year capture opposite ends of the broad spectrum of people drawn to such an event: Bela Molnar and Craig Alexander. They have very different approaches to the race. Molnar and Alexander have many things in common: Both have been here before. This Sunday will be Alexander’s fifth time here and Molnar’s ninth. Both have been all over the world together, seeing each other again and again in distant cities and towns across the globe as they each arrive for a common purpose.
Both love coming to St. Croix, and both praise the people and natural beauty of the island. On his website, the Aussie Alexander lists St. Croix as his favorite holiday spot. Molnar acts as an ambassador for the island, telling total strangers they must go to Norma’s and feed the pigs, go to Deanna’s for good Dominican food and go scuba diving while they are here.
But Molnar is almost certainly the least competitive, least stressed and most happy-go-lucky athlete here for the race, and possibly ever. In fact, he doesn’t plan to compete at all this time, although he is here for the event and completed it the last eight years in a row.
“I finish dead last every year,” Molnar said proudly. “You can check. After a point they tell you you’re out of the race because they can’t be responsible for you all day. I tell them if they want my (entry) number, ok, but I’m finishing no matter what.”
Alexander, on the other hand, won the race last year.
“I’ve raced here four times now,” he said, his wife, Neri, by his side and daughter, Lucy, between his legs. “This will be my fifth time. It’s been a good year for me; I’m in good shape. You never know what is going to happen out there. But I am in as good a position as I have ever been to take the top again. I’ve won twice before, and I’d like to make it three times.”
Molnar’s expectations for the race were somewhat different.
“For the last few years, these great local guys playing chess near the finish line have mixed me a big Rum and Coke after I finish,” Molnar said. “I hope they’re there. I can’t wait to sit and have a drink with them again.”
Molnar left his native Hungary as a young man in 1968, emigrating to the U.S. in 1969. Since then he has established a business in marble restoration and a second business as a videographer. He sees the triathlons he attends as opportunities to have fun.
“I do this because I’m a travel junkie,” Molnar said. “I can do this because I’m self employed, so I can create the opportunity pretty easily. I’ve been to triathlons all over the world: Tahiti, Australia, Panama Puerto Rico, Austria, Canada and some others. I have the most fun here. Last year there was a donkey at the base of the Beast offering people rides to the top.”
As he spoke, a retired couple from Switzerland who recognized Molnar came up and they began trading notes on the Swiss Marathon. Although not exactly a cutthroat, win-or-die type, Molnar has run and completed quite a few events.
“I’ve finished five and three-quarter full Ironman triathlons,” Molnar said. “I hit a kangaroo at the 18th mile during the Australia triathlon and broke my bike. The rules said I couldn’t borrow a bike. I made it so it counts to me, but not officially, so I say ‘five and three quarters’ instead of six.”
Molnar has completed more than 20 half-Ironman competitions like the one on St. Croix.
“I like to travel, and I try to dive whenever I can,” Molnar said. “Since I got certified in 2000, I’ve been on more than 120 dives. I’ll be going off the Wall tomorrow. And our club, the (St. Pete) Mad Dogs — we have 20 people here, so I’m cheering them on.”
Although one of the world’s best triathletes, even a top contender like Alexander is not only about the competition. Like Molnar, he too has priorities above simply winning and getting the best time possible. Again and again, Alexander has stopped right near the end to carry his daughter Lucy over the line with him. At Saturday’s pre-race talk for professionals, Race organizer Tom Guthrie suggested Alexander might have gotten the St. Croix course record had he not paused at the end to grab his daughter from his wife’s arms and walked with her over the finish line.
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