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Leon Wolek was an endurance motocross racer in the 70’s, competing in races that averaged 200 + miles per day. He was also an avid hockey player. It was through motocross that he met the legendary motocross racer, Mark Barnett. He put Mark through endurance training at the Indiana Dunes National State Park. Mark went on to win many National motocross championships.
Because of Leon’s endurance training, he found dehydration to be a major concern. The sports drinks that were available in the market didn’t agree with his digestive system, so he set out to develop his own product. Eventually his drink was used by many pro and college teams along with the Chicago Black Hawks and the 1980’s “Miracle on Ice” Olympic Hockey Team.
In the process of promoting his drink he attended many sporting goods trade shows across the country. There he built an extensive network of relationships. At the trade shows he met many representatives of companies involved in sports including triathlons. Because Leon enjoyed endurance sports, he decided to start participating in triathlons.
One of the relationships he developed was with Billy Meistrell Jr., son of Bill Meistrell, one of the founders of Body Glove. Body Glove was one of the first companies to produce wetsuits and one of the first to design triathlon wetsuits. He worked with Body Glove and became involved in the designing and development of wetsuits that were used in the sport. They traveled throughout the US supporting and participating in the National Triathlon Series. They listened to athlete’s feedback regarding wetsuit design and event production.
Leon realized that with his triathlon relationships, and his passion for the sport, he would be able to create a tremendous triathlon event. Thus, Leon’s Triathlon was created.
The first Leon’s Triathlons were held in Leon’s hometown of Hobart IN, at the Isaac Walton, just off of I-65. The Wolek family attended many triathlons with Leon as a participant. While attending the events, they promoted Leon’s Triathlon. Leon’s Triathlon grew year after year until it outgrew the Isaac Walton. Fortunately, they were invited by Mayor Tom McDermott Sr. to host Leon’s Triathlon in Hammond at Wolf Lake to accommodate the continued growth. The family worked very closely with the Cities, Counties and State to set the standard in the sport.
Leon and his family noticed that all of the major events focused on the pros and not the amateurs. They thought the amateurs needed to be showcased, so they pioneered the First National Amateur Championship, which to this day continues in the sport. They also hosted one of the First Military Championships in the sport. Both were televised on ESPN worldwide and had Military flyovers after the singing of the National Anthem. Because of its completely closed course, the closing of a six lane freeway, and all three events starting and finishing at the same staging area, Leon’s Triathlon came to be known as the fastest triathlon in the world.
Because of economical development and political changes, there were some challenges that resulted in the race course logistics. The Wolek family felt it was time to retire the Leon’s Triathlon’s.
Throughout the next 15 years people wrote, called and emailed asking when Leon’s Triathlon would be back.
Leon finally decided to request a meeting with the current Mayor of Hammond, Tom McDermott Jr. Because of the support from his father, Mayor McDermott Sr., his son grew up knowing all about Leon’s Triathlon. Like his father he gave his support and after a 15 year hiatus, Leon’s is coming back.
“We plan to continue exactly where we left off, providing triathletes with an experience they won’t soon forget!”
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