Hunter Lussi: A teen triathlete who makes me smile

America’s Tri For Health™ on Labor Day

Sep 22, 2009

I am so crushing on Hunter Lussi right now. For the last few weeks, I’ve felt like every blog story has been a rant about body image, a rumination on drug addiction or a reflection on one social health epidemic or another. And then Mr. Lussi pops into my Inbox, and makes my Extreme Self day.

Lussi is the 16-year-old behind America’s Tri For Health, a website he created and launched earlier this week to get more of us off the couch and involved in sports. But Lussi’s not a newcomer to athletics or attention from the press: in 2007, he became the youngest person ever to complete an Ironman triathlon. For the record, that’s a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile run.

That initiative caught the attention of mainstream media, and Lussi’s stayed busy even after leaving the spotlight, competing in more races and setting his sights on the wellbeing of America’s teens. His website includes health tips for youth and a “find a fitness partner” search function, designed to match you with a running, walking or swimming partner in your area. The overarching goal of Lussi’s new website is to encourage others to get into triathlons and participate in an annual Tri For Fitness event every Labor Day.

And while I almost shrugged off Lussi’s project as an exercise in naive athletic exclusion (given the often prohibitive expense of training and registering for triathlons), he’s redeemed himself by making the program as inclusive as possible. Your Tri “event” can be anywhere, and it’s nowhere near an Ironman: just finish a 10-lap swim, 10 mile bike/spin/roll and 2.5 mile run/walk.

Millions of Americans are making excuses for their health, while this one is making a website to breed adolescent triathletes. What’s his secret? Well, for one, Hunter’s parents are both competitive triathletes themselves. That’ll help, but I’ll let him off the hook for his hereditary advantage, and he still gets credit for starting something so kick-ass. His goal? “Let’s make America the fittest country in the world.” Er, we’ll see about that. But no matter. Hunter Lussi: you go, guy!