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Disterdick started out as a swimmer. He co-captained the swim team at Purdue University, swam in every meet the team competed in from 1960 to 1964 and helped set a school relay record. He then enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he competed on the 82nd Airborne Skydiving Team, Army Track Team and Army Boxing Team from 1965 to 1967.


In the early 1970s, he took up speed water skiing and slalom skiing, winning the national championships in 1976 for speed skiing after clocking 108 miles an hour on a pair of water skis.


“I’ve always had this compulsion to jump into something,” he says about his sports background. “When I was a kid, they didn’t have diagnoses of ADHD, and I think I’ve always been somewhat ADHD. I had this craziness to experience as much of these kinds of things as I could. And triathlon has more than any other sport.”


Disterdick caught the triathlon bug in 1980, while getting ready for a speed skiing race on Lake Mead.


“There was a guy out there training on a bike, Jim Gayton, and we got into a conversation and he told me he does these triathlons and said it was a new sport,” he recalls. “We became friends and started cycling together and it was through that association that I started doing triathlons.”


Disterdick’s first triathlon was the U.S. Triathlon Series race at Lake Castaic, followed by USTS races in Portland, Seattle and San Francisco. He did an ultra-distance race in Santa Monica, then the IRONMAN World Championship in 1981, following it up the next year in Hawaii with a third-place master’s finish in Kona.


“I swam in college, so I knew how disciplined you had to be to become a competitive swimmer. And I understood running. When I was in the military, I did a lot of track meets. Those two disciplines I was pretty familiar with. When I added the biking, I think it was the attractiveness of being proficient at three disciplines in a sport where it’s just one person and it’s all up to you.”


Disterdick was so taken by triathlon that in late 1982, while running a financial business in Burbank, California, he, Gayton and a few others decided they needed to start a governing body for the nascent sport.


“I had a couple attorneys on my staff so we started the United States Triathlon Association, USTA (an acronym that conflicted with the United States Tennis Association, so the name later was changed to USA Triathlon). For the first two years everything was run out of my office in Burbank. I paid all of the expenses and, since there wasn’t any money coming in and everything to do with the sport was in my office building, a year after we started the USTA, I had the first two membership cards made.”


The first, number 000001, was issued to him. The second, 000002, went to his second son, William, a top-notch tennis player at the time who also did triathlons.


In addition to starting the first governing association for triathlon, Disterdick started Triathlon, the sport’s first magazine, in the spring of 1983 with a limited partnership, $25,000 of his own money and an additional $100,000 he raised from investors. But the magazine, which was printed overseas, was an expensive proposition and ended in June of 1986.


So he put his energy back into his financial business and triathlons and met his second wife when she responded to an ad for help for his company. She was from Chattanooga, Tennessee, and they visited family there frequently. So when the 1994 Northridge earthquake devastated the area surrounding their Southern Californian home, they decided to make the move with their two boys and four girls to Tennessee.


“Our house withstood the earthquake, but a lot of people wanted to rent it,” he says. “So we moved to Chattanooga and I’ve been here ever since.”


Disterdick’s latest goal, in addition to training for the 2018 ITU Age Group World Championships in Australia (for which he qualified with a second-place finish in the Olympic-distance race at last year’s USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships in Omaha, Nebraska), is to produce a series of shows on cable television called “Redefining Aging.”


“The theme of the show is that I would be out there doing some activity and interviewing people who overcame heart attacks, depression, obesity, and improved their lives and their lifestyle by just getting involved in some kind of activity,” he says, adding that he sold the series twice to companies that went out of business.


“The theme of the show is that I would be out there doing some activity and interviewing people who overcame heart attacks, depression, obesity, and improved their lives and their lifestyle by just getting involved in some kind of activity,” he says, adding that he sold the series twice to companies that went out of business.


36 | USA TRIATHLON | WINTER 2018

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