Top row L-R: Nikic, Alexander, Smith. Bottom row L-R: Kochian, Lasorsa, Battle, Torres.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — USA Triathlon today announced the seven recipients of its 2020 Multisport Awards Presented by Wahoo Fitness, an annual honor that recognizes USA Triathlon members who help fuel the multisport lifestyle through service, sportsmanship and community contributions:
Doug Clark Sportsmanship Award: Chris Nikic (Maitland, Fla.)
This award is presented annually in honor of Doug Clark, a decorated triathlete and multi-time masters national champion who inspired others through his dedication and commitment to sport, humility, ability to inspire others, ambassadorship for the sport and high standards of ethical behavior on and off the field of competition. He passed away in 2016.
The recipient of the 2020 Doug Clark Sportsmanship Award is Chris Nikic, who became the first person with Down syndrome to complete an IRONMAN triathlon when he crossed the finish line of IRONMAN Florida in Panama City Beach on Nov. 7, 2020. The 21-year-old had already completed an IRONMAN 70.3 event in May of 2020, becoming the first individual with Down syndrome to do so. His achievements, which were covered by national media outlets including the TODAY Show, ESPN, Sports Illustrated and The New York Times, captivated and inspired triathletes and sports fans across the world.
Nikic had been working toward his IRONMAN dream since he began participating in triathlons at age 16. His next goal is to complete the 2021 IRONMAN World Championship this October in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, and he also hopes to qualify and compete at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, Florida.
Jeff Jewell Spirit Award: Janelle Alexander (Stone Mountain, Ga.)
This award commemorates Jeff Jewell, a massage therapist for USA Triathlon’s age-group Team USA from 2001-2009. Jewell, who passed away from brain cancer on Nov. 15, 2010, was one of life’s biggest cheerleaders and was an inspiration to everyone he met. The award is given each year to an athlete who gives back to the sport outside of competitions and is considered a role model to other athletes, particularly youth.
The recipient of the 2019 Jeff Jewell Spirit Award is Janelle Alexander. Alexander is a multisport teacher, athlete, coach and ambassador, who demonstrates an extraordinary commitment to the triathlon community and all its participants. She is involved with the Network of Multi-Sport African American Athletes, or NOMSA3. The club is based in Atlanta, Georgia, but has a nationwide online community, with a mission to encourage and promote active lifestyles through recruitment and participation in multisport endurance events.
Through her work with NOMSA3, Alexander consistently models behavior for the next generation of triathlon mentors in assisting new coaches, trainees and volunteers as they navigate activities leading up to and including race day. She provides exceptional support and service to new and veteran triathletes, especially in the African American community, and she inspires those who know her to aim higher and train harder.
Military Sport Award: Michael D. Smith (Castle Rock, Colo.)
U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Michael D. Smith is the recipient of the 2020 Military Sport Award, which recognizes the multisport successes achieved by the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces as they pursue the triathlon lifestyle, while simultaneously meeting the high standards and work ethic required to fulfill their oaths as members of the military community.
Smith, an above-the-elbow amputee, worked hard to remain on active duty throughout 2020 while training and competing as an elite U.S. paratriathlete and hopeful for the Paralympic Games Paris 2024. Smith is a member of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, a team captain for the USA Triathlon Foundation Ambassador Team Powered by Newton Running, a member of the Team Psycho Elite Development Program and an ambassador for Team Zoot Mountain.
He is also the president and co-founder (with fellow U.S. elite paratriathlete Kelly Worrell) of the nonprofit Swim Bike Run 4 Equality, whose mission is to offer opportunities to increase diversity and inclusion in the sport of triathlon.
Most Inspirational Comeback Award: Tracy Kochian (Morganville, N.J.)
Tracy Kochian is the recipient of the 2020 Most Inspirational Comeback Award, which recognizes athletes who have made a comeback to the sport after a traumatic or troublesome personal situation. Kochian began her multisport career as a highly competitive triathlete who frequently podiumed in races from sprint- to Olympic-distance and ultimately in long course events. Kochian was faced with multiple hardships including major surgeries, months of physical therapy, countless hours of training, and the daily stress of battling through multiple setbacks during a two-year journey in returning to high-level athletic competition through perseverance, dedication, and determination. The reward for that perseverance and her newfound focus on duathlon during the 2019 season earned her a first-place ranking in her home state of New Jersey, a second-place ranking in USA Triathlon’s Mideast Region, and a seventh-place ranking nationally.
Volunteer of the Year Award: Dave Lasorsa (Port Angeles, Wash.) and Leslie Battle (Warwick, R.I.)
The Volunteer of the Year Award recognizes an individual or organization whose volunteer leadership has been transformative and has mobilized and unified athletes, programs and organizations in the multisport community. The joint recipients of the 2020 Volunteer of the Year Award are Dave Lasorsa and Leslie Battle. Lasorsa and Battle have served for years as part of the USA Triathlon Multisport Committee and USA Triathlon Age Group Committee, respectively.
Lasorsa has been Chair of the Multisport Committee for the last three years. One of his most significant accomplishments has been the rebranding of the group from the Duathlon Committee to the Multisport Committee, with a new mission and set of goals based on supporting participants across all multisport disciplines.
Battle has been one of the multisport community’s strongest proponents of Clydesdale and Athena participation. She advocated for the inclusion of Clydesdale and Athena athletes at all USA Triathlon National Championship events, with Team USA eligibility (USA Triathlon still hosts Clydesdale and Athena Sprint- and Olympic-distance national championships separately). Through the dedication and leadership they bring to their volunteer roles, Lasorsa and Battle have helped shape, advise and directly improve the triathlon and multisport experience for hundreds of thousands of age group, Athena, and Clydesdale competitors.
Spirit of Multisport Award: Hector Torres (Orlando, Fla.)
The Spirit of Multisport Award recognizes individuals who illustrate the positive spirit of multisport through acts of sportsmanship and leadership, with no deference to athletic ability. The 2020 Spirit of Multisport Award goes to Hector Torres, a USA Triathlon Level II Certified Coach, co-founder of the first Special Olympics triathlon training program in Florida, and head coach of Special Olympics Team Florida. He is also the head coach of Tri Peak Athlete and founder of the Central Florida Tri Club. In 2020, Torres successfully coached Chris Nikic — one of the first athletes to take part in the Special Olympics Florida triathlon program — to his goal of becoming the first athlete with Down syndrome to complete an IRONMAN triathlon. He has been a tireless coach and cheerleader for Special Olympics and other adaptive and special needs athletes, and his dedication to coaching with the highest levels of integrity, respect and compassion for his athletes is palpable.
For more information about the USA Triathlon Multisport Awards, and to view all past recipients, visit usatriathlon.org/multisportawards.
About USA Triathlon
USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the National Governing Body for triathlon, as well as duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, winter triathlon, off-road triathlon and paratriathlon in the United States. Founded in 1982, USA Triathlon sanctions more than 4,000 events and connects with more than 400,000 members each year, making it the largest multisport organization in the world. In addition to its work at the grassroots level with athletes, coaches, and race directors — as well as the USA Triathlon Foundation — USA Triathlon provides leadership and support to elite athletes competing at international events, including World Triathlon Championships, Pan American Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of World Triathlon and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC).