ITU honorary president Les McDonald dies at 84

The man many credit with getting the sport into the Olympics, Les McDonald, passed on September 4.

| September 5, 2017 | NEWS

Photo >Courdesy ITU

According to a press release from the ITU, the founder of the organization, Les McDonald, has died. McDonald, who was the president of the ITU from its ineception in 1989 to 2008, passed at the age of 84 in Vancouver, Canada.

“Les was not only an extraordinary person, he was part of the triathlon family, and will be always remembered," says ITU president Marison Casado. "His impact on the global evolution of our sport, and the governing body, was very significant. Those of us who were privileged to share this journey with him are immensely sadden at this moment. He lived a plentiful life, dedicated to triathlon, and we will continue to live with his legacy to make sure the sport is always about the athletes.”

McDonald, born in Newcastle, Great Britain, moved to Vancouver, Canada with his wife Monique in 1954 where he worked as an electrician. An avid skier, he coached the British Columbia ski team and was one of a group that founded Whistler, which is now one of the world's most famous ski resorts.

McDonald got into marathon running in the 1970s, then turned his sights to triathlon, becoming a five-time Ironman world champion from 1983 to 1987. He founded the British Columbia Triathlon Association in 1983 and what is now Triathlon Canada in 1984. For years he traveled around the world helping countries create their own national governing bodies and, in 1989, was operative in creating the ITU - he became the organization's first president that year. The goal was to get triathlon into the Olympics, a feat that was recognized in 1994. 

McDonald was succeeded by Marisol Casado as president of the ITU in 2008. In 2010 he was awarded the Olympic order and in 2013 was given the Order of Canada. He was inducted into the ITU Hall of Fame in 2014.

“Les’ greatest legacy is the number of opportunities that he created for women; athletes, officials and administrators," says long-time friend and ITU vice president Loreen Barnett. "Les’ grandmother was a suffragette in the UK in the early decades of the last century and her lessons on equality for women in terms of reward and opportunity guided Les’ work during his leadership role within ITU. Hundreds of women, including myself, benefitted from his belief in the equal ability of women."