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USA Triathlon Foundation Raises More than $100k at the BOA USA Triathlon Foundation Gala and Hall of Fame Induction

By USA Triathlon | Aug. 08, 2022, 3:34 p.m. (ET)

Laura Bennett, Robert Plant, Gwen Jorgensen and Lesley Cens-McDowell pose together for a photo at the hall of fame ceremony. they are wearing formal clothes and smiling.

MILWAUKEE, Wis. – More than $100,000  was raised to support the USA Triathlon Foundation’s mission of swim, bike and run for all during the 2022 BOA USA Triathlon Foundation Gala and Hall of Fame Induction, which was attended by more than 250 people Thursday, Aug. 4 at Discovery World in Milwaukee. 

The evening served as the formal induction and celebration of USA Triathlon’s Hall of Fame Class XI – Laura Bennett, Lesley Cens-McDowell, Gwen Jorgensen and Robert Plant. As the charitable arm of USA Triathlon, the Foundation supports the multisport community through charitable givebacks and grants that advance its three pillars: encourage youth participation, inspire adaptive athletes and ignite Olympic/Paralympic dreams.

“Together we can create opportunities for kids to be active and build healthy habits, add the definition of ‘athlete’ — with words like ‘determination’, ‘strength’ and ‘discipline’ – to a person’s identity, and bring home Olympic and Paralympic medals,” USA Triathlon Foundation President and Chief Advancement Officer Dr. Gabe Cagwin told attendees. 

Since it was established in 2014, the Foundation has provided millions of dollars in grants to organizations and individuals in pursuit of its mission and pillars to create a healthier United States through triathlon. 

The Foundation’s mission is made possible by its Board of Trustees: Stephen Ban, Gregg Goolsby, Brenda Smith, John Cassimatis, Alex Egan, Paul Gompers, Justin Kaplan, Audra Mallow, Jacqueline McCook, Robert McKeown, Felix Stellmaszek and Melissa Stockwell.  

Individuals and organizations supported by the Foundation spoke about how grant funding has made a difference, including adaptive triathlete Ashley Eisenmenger and Jerry Shere, co-founder of Kids That Tri Cleveland. 

“The sport of triathlon has given me confidence, it’s opened up doors to compete collegiately at the varsity level, something I thought as a blind kid would never be possible for me,” said Eisenmenger, who has since won multiple national titles and competed at the collegiate level. 

Through Kids that Tri Cleveland, youth learn to swim, bike and run, as well as participate in competitive triathlon races. The program is offered at no cost, and includes coaching, gear, race fees and travel. Shere said it’s able to exist because of the Foundation, which acts as its nonprofit. 

Kendra, a 17-year-old who started racing this year, spoke about the program’s personal impact.  

“It’s totally changed my life,” she said of triathlon.  

Founded in 2008, the USA Triathlon Hall of Fame has recognized the best performances and contributions in the sport’s history, dating back to its origins in 1974. It recognizes, honors and commemorates individuals, groups and entities who demonstrate excellence in multisport and inspire others to elevate their performance, participation and involvement in multisport in their communities.

Gwen Jorgensen

Elite Athlete (Boulder, Colo.)

A Wisconsin native and an All-American track and cross-country runner for the University of Wisconsin, Jorgensen, 35, won the USA’s first Olympic gold medal in triathlon at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. In 2017, she announced she was pursuing a bold new goal: win an Olympic gold medal in the marathon.
Jorgensen spoke of how Laura Bennett encouraged her as they competed together in a qualifying event for the 2012 London Olympics. 

“I was a newbie triathlon nobody, and she patted me, and said, ‘Go get ‘em, girl,’” Jorgensen said. “I don’t know if she knows how much that meant to me, but I had the support of someone who was directly competing with me for an Olympic spot. It made a big difference in my career going forward. It showed me that I too could support and uplift those coming up underneath me.”

Laura Bennett

Elite Athlete (Boulder, Colo.)

A two-time Olympian, Bennett, 46, took fourth at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and finished 17th at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Today, she and her husband, Australian Olympic triathlete Greg Bennett, own and operate Bennett Endurance High Performance, based in Boulder, Colorado.
“It has been an amazing experience for me, to be involved in such a challenging sport,” she said. 

Lesley Cens-McDowell

Age Group Athlete (West Chester, Pa./Holualoa, Hawaii)

A longtime age-group triathlete, Cens-McDowell, 75, has won multiple triathlon races of all distances, including the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, IRONMAN 70.3, Olympic distance, and sprint triathlons. She was also named USA Triathlon’s Master Triathlete of the year in 1991. 

“I applaud all of you who support this sport and are involved in this sport,” she said. “It’s an amazing community of athletes and supporters.”

Robert Plant

Age Group Athlete (Woodside, Calif.)

Plant, 78, is one of the most decorated age group multisport athletes in the world. He has won several USA Triathlon age group national titles including seven Olympic-distance triathlon titles, two standard-distance duathlon (run-bike-run) titles and four aquathlon (swim-run) titles. 

“Triathlon is like a family, and there’s something very special about it,” he said. “There’s people from all different walks of life, but they all have similar goals and aspirations.”
Inductees are selected by the Hall of Fame Executive Committee: Steve Sutherland, Monica Paul, Bob Babbitt, Paul Craig, Sally Edwards, Judge Jones, Karen Smyers, Susan Williams, Tom Ziebart and Tim Yount.

The USA Triathlon Foundation Gala and Hall of Fame Induction was made possible by support from its sponsors: BOA, presenting partner; TicketSocket, bronze partner and The Vice Wine, in-kind partner.

About the USA Triathlon Foundation

The USA Triathlon Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and the charitable arm of USA Triathlon. With its mission to transform lives through sport by providing opportunities to swim, bike and run, the Foundation serves to generate a greater impact on the multisport community through charitable giveback and grants that advance the Foundation’s three pillars: (1) Encourage youth participation; (2) Inspire adaptive athletes; and (3) Ignite Olympic/Paralympic dreams. Since the Foundation was established in 2014, it has provided millions of dollars in grants to organizations and individuals in pursuit of its mission and pillars to create a healthier United States through triathlon. To learn more about the Foundation and get involved, please visit usatriathlonfoundation.org.