Giving it a tri: Chance to compete in triathlons with son sparked interest for Waldner
De BEQUE — It all began as an effort to surprise his son.
Now every time Stan Waldner looks back on his seven-year triathlon career, his memories produce nothing but smiles and pride.
The 88-year-old Waldner, who with his wife, Barbara, has settled comfortably into retirement in Bass Lake, hasn’t run a triathlon in the past 13 years. He made the most of a brief career, however.
Sixteen years ago, he was ranked third nationally in his age division. He even earned a berth on the team that represented the U.S. in the world amateur triathlon championships in Manchester, England.
His career began innocently enough.
His son, Todd Waldner, began competing in triathlons in the late 1980s. Having grown up in the Chicago area, he was excited to return from his new home in California to run the Bud Light Triathlon in Chicago in 1989.
Stan, who kept in shape by swimming, running and biking, had never competed in a triathlon.
“I was more fit than average for that age,” he said, that age being 69 at the time.
He decided, unbeknownst to Todd and Barbara, that the Bud Light Triathlon would be his first attempt.
“(Todd) saw me out running. He asked me why I was (warming up),” Stan said. “I said I wanted to do it. Todd said (I) had to be entered. I said I was.”
Todd finished ahead of Stan, but came back to run the last couple of miles with his father.
“I did one and got hooked,” Stan said.
Over the next nine years or so, he did 20 triathlons, competing for the final time in 1996.
“I generally placed in the top five (in my age division),” he said.
That included a first-place finish in the 70-75 division in the 1991 Chicago Sun Times Triathlon.
The more he finished at the top of his division, the more motivated Stan was to continue.
“It’s much the same as a (distance) runner does,” he said. “He does them because he does them well.”
Exercising in three aerobic activities was beneficial, Stan said.
“It’s been a source of satisfaction,” he said.
He takes pride in the fact that he never had to quit during a triathlon and he never incurred a serious injury during training.
“I was very fortunate,” he said. “I didn’t ever have a malfunction.”
Actually, the greatest source of pride for Stan now is to see his granddaughter compete.
Chloe Waldner, Todd’s 8-year-old daughter, won her age division Aug. 7 in the USA Triathlon Youth National Championship in Colorado Springs.
Todd trains Chloe and a group of young triathletes in the I CAN Junior Triathlon Club in Fresno, Calif.
“Occasionally when I see her, she gets a pat on the back,” said Stan, who hopes to be able to watch Chloe race in the near future.
Waldner still gets out for an occasional ride on one of his two bicycles around the Bass Lake area.
“As I look back I would have to say I have been very, very fortunate,” he said.