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A Champion For Life

Posted Sep 22 2008 11:05am
Hi. I said on the air Thursday night that Darryl Kollai was as good at his sport as LeBron James is at his.


Darryl Kollai was not a household name in Northeast Ohio. But ask someone in the triathlon community and chances are they knew of him. Many of us saw the backside of Darryl because he was routinely swimming, biking and running the competition into the ground.

Darryl is no longer with us. On a Saturday ride with training buddies, Darryl had a heart attack and was gone...suddenly.

His legend. His imprint. His charisma was overwhelming. He mentored so many athletes and turned them into champs. All the while, Kollai was winning medal after medal.. 27 years in the sport, but 53 is too damn young to be leaving.

Kollai was a national caliber racer. In his 40's he was consistently trashing all the 20 and 30-somethings. Just a few weeks before he died, he tore into a bike segment and everyone else was eating his dust. His strength was amazing. He broke bike frames and never , ever gave an inch.

I remember the legend of Steve Prefontaine. The guts. The toughness. I like to think that if Pre were to have lived..he's be Darryl Kollai. Smiling assassin on the course.

To train with Darryl, they say was to come an inch from the edge..and then go over. Ask Heather Petroff, who spoke at his funeral, or my old college buddy Scott McGill, himself a brilliant racer. Darryl always said "Just a little bit further" or "Its all downhill from here" (Both lies, but you do what you have to). Darryl always preached that "No one likes the view from second place".

At Darryl's funeral, the family..son Eric ,daughter Michelle, wife Susan, laughed at the stories told by others and told some zingers of their own. Darryl knew how to do so many things. Humor..wit..motivator. mechanic...the list goes on and on.. Everyone laughed..many shed tears. He was buried in his Team USA jacket as he competed for the US in Perth Austrailia in the mid to late 90's. Pictures and articles displayed as were his Cervelo Bike and his wetsuit.

After the service..a long and winding procession went to the place of burial..along the tough, hilly roads that he climbed...past the deer he saw each day...inching up the inclines..reaching to the sky...Darryl reached everyday. He reached for greatness. Burning lungs, sweating body..muscles screaming. Torture for some, but the closest thing to heaven for Darryl. And now, he is training there, he is likely training God, urging him to push harder to be the best God he can be.

I would like to write, Rest in Peace Darryl, but I don't think thats what you have in mind. Your time here was short, as were the times you set as you raced. You raised the bar for many others and the sport has benefited so greatly because of you.
DARRYL KOLLAI 1955--2008
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