2017 MALE TRIATHLETE OF THE YEAR T.J. DEVLIEGERCharlie Johnson, January 14, 2018
The person I am introducing is an idol of many here tonight. We often see idols in the spotlight on TV or at the movies. This gentleman doesn’t care for the spotlight or pursue it, which is one of his greatest qualities. Some of us have the honor of hanging out with him on almost a weekly basis – at least when he isn’t up in his deer stand or chasing a bear off his front porch!. This man leads his life by example. In all the time I’ve known him, he has always made the right choices.
It is safe to say, he would give the shirt off his back to you. Case in Point: I recently tried purchasing the bike he has been loaning me and he told me it was a gift and refused any payment. I’m now considering asking if I can borrow his truck next. He has given advice and assistance to so many and never expects anything in return. He is a man of integrity who will always be there for you.
The bottom line? He cares about others more than himself. He is a godly man who lives daily by the golden rule: Do unto others as others would do unto you.
Many of you have probably heard of the social, party club disguised as a training group named Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop. Their group likes to sign up and train for big races together. One year they all signed up for an Ironman. Even though he was not signed up for the race, many days he rode well over 100 miles going back and forth between those in the front and those in the back to ensure everyone was okay. Due to this, he earned the nick name of “Cat Herder”.
Now on to this man’s athletic prowess. He is well into his 50s, but he beats most who are half his age. His first triathlon was in the 80s back in the days of short shorts when he lost a bet to a friend. It was the St. Anthony’s Triathlon and he qualified for a shot at a Kona qualifying race put on by the Bud Light series. He didn’t go to that race but continued in triathlon until the early 90s when his first daughter was born. After some time away from the sport, he was reintroduced to triathlon in 2010 after meeting Robert Palmer, and has been on an absolute tear ever since. Just last year, he not only raced in the USAT National Championships, but at that race, he qualified for the ITU World Championships in the Netherlands.
He then carried that momentum into 2017. Following are his results:
He started the season with a 5th Overall finish at St. Marks Duathlon (probably the best race around that EVERYONE needs to sign up for)
Soon after, he earned 1st Place age group at Red Hills Triathlon. He then took on the first of five half Ironmans he would complete in 2017.
Ironman 70.3 Florida (5:07) was the first in April where he earned 8th place in his age group.
One month later, he raced Ironman 70.3 Gulf Coast where he qualified for the World Championships. He was 4th age group, including bike split avging over 23 mph.
A week later, he rolled up to Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga where he placed 9th in his age group.
He then dropped to some shorter triathlons including Fort Rucker and the Chattahoochee Challenge where he was 5th overall in each.
Then in September was the Ironman 70.3 World Championships. Racing against the best in the world, he notched a 35th place age group finish on a very tough course.
And if that wasn’t enough, one month later, he finished the season off with his best race yet. He knocked out a personal record 4:45 finish good for third place in his age group at Ironman 70.3 North Carolina.
All of this success earned him USA Triathlon All-American status and a ranking of 78th in his age group. That is a rare accomplishment few achieve. He was and is racing on another level.
And I would be remiss if I did not mention that his wonderful wife’s support is what makes his achievements possible. She is his biggest supporter and always there to cheer him on while sometimes racing with him, too. She has even completed a full Ironman herself.
The man does what he says and says what he does. All who know him respect him. He is a good husband, father, grandfather, mentor and athlete. After all I’ve shared with you about this man, there should be no question as to why he is an idol to so many.
Everyone please join me in congratulating the 2017 Male Triathlete of the Year, TJ Devlieger!