Bits & Pieces: Vigorito leaves behind lasting legacy in triathlon community

The man most responsible for the popularity of the sport of triathlon in Howard County has decided to retire. Robert "Vigo" Vigorito, who founded the Columbia Triathlon Association, will be stepping down as of Dec. 31.

It all started for Vigorito in the early 1980s when he watched ABC's television show "Wide World of Sports," where a triathlon was being shown for one of the very first times. Vigorito and friends watched the show with interest and he quickly declared, "I think we can do that."

The problem was that nobody in that room including Vigorito, a neuroscientist at the Eunice Shriver Brain and Tissue Bank, knew anything about triathlons. So they got a book about the sport, made copies and got to work on bringing it here to Columbia.

The first two years the Columbia Triathlon barely resembled the current triathlon. Swimming was done in the Wilde Lake Swim Center with several swimmers occupying each lane, often at the same time.

Two years later, Vigorito took over the event and the triathlon steadily grew from 90 participants to the current level of 2,500.

A triathlete in his own right, Vigorito sustained a near-death experience in October 2010 while at the Ironman in Hawaii. A truck turned into his path on a bike ride and he sustained multiple broken ribs, a punctured lung, a broken collarbone and a herniated disc. He recovered with the help and care of his wife, Sharon, who has been at his side through three decades of triathlons, but the injuries still are partly responsible for his decision to retire now.

Vigo's list of accomplishments is lengthy. He assisted in the establishment of Tri-Fed, now known as USA Triathlon, which is the governing body of the sport. He was recognized in 2001 by the International Olympic Committee for his contribution to the sport of triathlon and the promotion of friendship and solidarity among peoples. In 2000, the sport debuted at the Olympic Games in Sydney. In 2006, he was inducted into the Howard County Community Sports Hall of Fame.

His greatest contribution is not the size of the field of the triathlon here, which could easily surpass 4,000 entrants if not for the size restrictions of Centennial Park, but instead the way he always treated everyone like family.

Few people actually see the fruits of their labor like Vigorito has. He will still acknowledge that much of the credit should go to the hundreds of volunteers who show up week after week. But if we tend to blame those at the top for failure, let's also give credit when things go right. He has touched the lives of thousands of people and has made many of them feel better about themselves.

Now that he's retired, Vigorito will be spending time working with local charities and also making frequent trips to his new home in Naples, Fla.

We wish Vigo and Sharon the best in a well deserved retirement. We will miss them both.

Book signing draws crowd

I have been to my fair share of book signings where celebrities come to town promoting a new book, but I have never seen the kind of crowd that I did at Princeton Sports last Saturday for multiple-time Ironman champion Craig Alexander. The line was the longest I have ever seen, but give credit to the people at Princeton Sports, namely Alan Davis, for keeping things running smoothly. Alexander's book is entitled "As the Crowe Flies, My Journey to Ironman World Champion," and it's one that I would definitely recommend.

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