With just “a little background in running and cycle touring”, who could have known that joining a club team while at the University of Montana would have lead the USA’s Ben Hoffman into the world of professional triathlon.
What a career it has been, culminating in him now sitting in the top 10 of the PTO World Rankings as one of the best long-course triathletes in the world.
Quickly rising to the top of sport at collegiate level, where he represented his country at the World University Championships back in 2016, ‘The Hoff’ quickly identified that longer-distance racing was his route to success.
Not pursuing the typical draft-legal, short-course route and the Olympic dream of many younger athletes, his first race as a professional was the legendary Wildflower Triathlon in 2007. With a third place on debut over the middle distance, his path was set.
Putting his degree - Spanish language - to good use, Hoffman got by financially in those formative years by balancing triathlon with part-time work doing Spanish translations at the local health department. As his results progressed, that early commitment was rewarded and he was able to commit full-time to his sporting goals.
The ‘rest is history’- though Hoffman hasn’t finished writing his legacy just yet.
Kona breakthrough and a South African triple
Also known as the ‘Hoffmeister General’, Ben has been consistently successful for more than a decade now, with multiple wins and podium finishes over both middle and iron-distance.
His first IRONMAN title came at the 2010 Lake Placid event, the home of the 1980 Winter Olympics. "It still hasn't sunk in yet, but I'm happy to at least say that I am an Ironman champion” he said at the time. It would be the first of many.
Twin successes would follow in 2012, topping the podium at both St. George and Wisconsin, while another North American venue was added to list of victories in 2013 - Coeur d’Alene.
Proving that his winning ability wasn’t limited to the North American continent, he would start what has since been a very close and successful relationship with IRONMAN South Africa in Port Elizabeth.
Hoffman took the title against high-class fields in 2016, 2017 and 2019, and it is no surprise to hear that the area is a very popular one for the Hoffman family.
He described that third victory as “redemption” after an injury, sustained only weeks before the 2018 renewal while taking part in the Absa Cape Epic mountain bike event, left him walking the run course.
“I can tell you, in addition to taking the entire year off due to injury, I wanted to come back here and show all of Port Elizabeth that I really love this race and I take it super seriously and I believe I am the man to win this race,” he said.
Crossing the line almost six minutes clear of Germany’s Nils Frommhold, he certainly proved that. Yet again.
Ben may not have won a full-distance race in 2014, but his performance at the IRONMAN World Championship that year was truly a breakout statement at global level.
With the world’s best arriving on the Big Island in their best shape, Ben cracked the Kona podium, separating the German pairing of Sebastian Kienle (winner) and the debutant Jan Frodeno. Truly esteemed company to be mixing with.
With three further Kona top-10 finishes since then, including fourth in 2019, it is no surprise to hear that Hawaii is one of his favourite events - and it wouldn’t be a shock if he were to return to that Kona podium again.
In the PTO flagship Collins Cup event, Hoffman will surely be a key asset to Team U.S.A. He will likely need to be on top form too if the powerful European line-up lives up to expectations.
Ben confirmed his status as one of the best U.S. iron-distance athletes of all time in November 2019. Just three weeks after Kona, Hoffman and Great Britain’s Joe Skipper pushed each other to the limit at IRONMAN Florida. It was a sensational spectacle, falling so soon after their Hawaii exploits.
The Panama City Beach has proven it can be a fast one on the right day, and while Skipper held on to take the win by just two minutes, Ben’s 7:48:29 that day is the fastest American iron-distance time in history. He closed out his race with a truly remarkable 2:36:09 marathon.
2019 was a memorable year for many reasons, as Ben and wife Kelsey welcomed baby Josephine into the world in September. A family man at heart, Ben admits “my wife and daughter”, of course, are what he cannot live without.
Triathlon a is true team effort for the Hoffmans too, as Kelsey is also manager, web designer, social-media guru, chef and more to ensure Ben’s best possible swim, bike and run performances.
Ben takes his new responsibilities seriously too, revealing: “As a new father, I sometimes fear not being the best possible person for Josie, or being able to provide all the opportunities to her”.
Given his hopes for his legacy, indications are that Josie is in good hands, as Ben says it would ideally be: “Showing others to follow their heart, do what they love, and lift others up. Teaching my child/children to be good people and enjoy the gift of life. Pushing your limits to explore your possibility”.
There are louder, more outspoken and attention-grabbing athletes in the triathlon world - but when it comes to a ‘show us your results’ collection, there is a very good reason that you don’t have to scroll down the PTO Rankings to find the name of Ben Hoffman.
All indications are that he has no plans to move either.