Triathletes train for endurance, and longtime pro Karen Smyers ’83 has endured more than most: a bout with thyroid cancer, a collision with an 18-wheel truck, and another accident that nearly severed her hamstring, not to mention the everyday hurdles of preparing to race the daunting Ironman distances – a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a 26.2-mile run.
Smyers, who swam competitively at Princeton, dominated the U.S. women’s triathlon scene in the 1990s and won gold at the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii in 1995. In fact, she won two major Ironman titles in a two-week span that year – "perhaps the single most remarkable achievement in the sport to date," according to USA Triathlon, which inducted Smyers into its Hall of Fame in 2008.
This weekend, Smyers returns to Hawaii for what may be her last Ironman as a professional, and in addition to racing her competitors on the course, she is aiming to win the event’s top charity prize by raising money for children and families affected by pediatric brain tumors. She chose her cause to honor Robert Duffy Jr., the late son of a friend and teammate. Through Oct. 5, Smyers had raised nearly $34,000.
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