Karen Smyers '83
The Princeton Varsity Club welcomed Karen Smyers '83 to campus as the keynote speaker for the Jake McCandless '51 PVC Speaker Series. In her talk entitled "Pursuing One's Passion through Setbacks and Challenges" Smyers focused on four P's: perseverance, positive attitude, perspective and passion.
Karen was a letter winner in both swimming and track & field at Princeton and has gone on to an accomplished career as a professional triathlete. Karen is one of the foremost triathletes in the United States and has compiled a remarkable resume in the sport, in the face of severe difficulties. Chief among her setbacks was a battle with thyroid cancer which she overcame and followed with further success in her sport.
Karen Smyers has been a professional triathlete for over 25 years. She has won seven National and four World Championship titles, including a dramatic come-from-behind victory in the Hawaiian Ironman World Championships in 1995. Her victory at the short-course Triathlon World Championship just 5 weeks later earned her the distinction of being the only woman ever to win triathlon’s two most prestigious races in the same year.
Subsequently, she endured the challenge of a severed hamstring muscle by broken glass, a time-out for the birth of her daughter, a knockdown by an eighteen-wheeler while cycling, and a battle with thyroid cancer, but came back to win her seventh Elite National Championship title in August of 2001.
Karen gave birth to her second child in January 2004 and returned again to the professional race circuit, intent on widening the horizon of what is possible while aging into one’s forties. Her win at the Timberman 70.3 in 2004 and 2006 and her Top 10 finish at the Hawaiian Ironman in 2005 are indications that even at age 45, she can still race with the best. Karen was recently honored to have been inducted into USA Triathlon’s Hall of Fame in its inaugural year.
Through all her ordeals, she maintains her optimism, sense of humor and passion for racing. She is a 1983 graduate of Princeton University and lives in Lincoln, MA with daughter Jenna, son Casey, and husband and frequent training partner Michael King.
The Jake McCandless ’51 PVC Speaker Series began in 2004 with a lecture from NCAA President Myles Brand. The series was endowed in the name of J. L. "Jake" McCandless ’51, who coached Princeton to the 1969 Ivy League football championship during the Tigers’ centennial year of football.