The World Triathlon Championships will take place in Hamburg, Germany from July 13-16.
Bob Hobkirk was a dual-sport athlete in his days at Plant City High School, playing quarterback for the football team and a pole vaulter on the track and field team. On the sidelines, his future wife Donna was a cheerleader.
Now many years removed from his days on the gridiron, Bob Hobkirk is still shining in competition as he will represent the United States in Hamburg, Germany for the 2023 Triathlon World Championships in July — recently qualifying in the 75-79 year old division.
But despite the incredible feat, this is not the first time Bob has represented his country in international competition.
While an employee at Tampa Electric Company, Bob began distance running in his 20’s as a hobby to stay healthy. Within a few years he would join a local cycling group and a short time later begin competing in his first triathlons.
“Originally I just picked up running to try and stay healthy because I have a family history of heart disease,” Bob Hobkirk said. “My mother died when I was nine and she was 43 of a heart condition, my brother died of a heart condition so I always felt like I needed to stay in good condition with my family medical history but I really didn’t start triathloning until later. I saw IronMan on TV, that was when I really got interested in maybe trying to do one. I originally started biking with a group in Brandon, there was maybe 20 of us, and they were pretty serious bikers so we all pushed ourselves. After doing that for a few months I signed up for a triathlon and ended up placing. After that I was like, ‘holy cow, I can actually place and do these things.’ I don’t really have a running or swimming or biking background where some people were collegiate swimmers or bikers or runners and I didn’t have that background, so I was surprised that I was able to compete and place. Then I really started working on it.”
Upon the suggestion of a fellow TECO employee, Bob and Donna — along with a group of colleagues — formed a Dragon Boat racing team. Finding success, the group was able to compete all throughout the state of Florida and in competitions as far away as New York. As Bob continued to compete in various competitions that ranged from marathons to triathlons to IronMan competitions, the couple eventually relocated to Satellite Beach, Fla.
Beginning in 1994, Bob Hobkirk completed the first 10 Walt Disney World Marathons. In 1997 he participated in his first IronMan competition in Clermont, Fla., winning the master’s division before heading to Canada for another IronMan Competition where he qualified for the IronMan World Championship in Hawaii. In 2018, he and a coworker completed the Great Divide Mountain Bike Ride — the longest off-pavement route in the world, crisscrossing the Continental Divide throughout southern Canada and the U.S. Totaling over 200,000 feet of elevation gain, the GDMBR is Adventure Cycling’s premier off-pavement cycling route with the entire road consisting of dirt-road and mountain pass riding. In total, Bob Hobkirk has completed six IronMan competitions, more than 20 marathons and more distance competitions than he could guess.
After joining a new Dragon Boat Racing group closer to their new home, both Bob and Donna ultimately qualified to represent the United States at the World Dragon Boat Championships in Thailand in 2019 where the couple each became part of the first men’s and women’s senior teams to ever medal for the United States — with Donna winning three gold medals and Bob winning eight.
Bob Hobkirk first qualified for the USA Triathlon team in 2019 after competing in the Waco Ironman in Texas and the USA Triathlon National Championships in Cleveland, Ohio, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Championships were cancelled in 2020 and 2021. So in 2022, Bob Hobkirk made his way back to Waco where he once again qualified for the national team, giving him the opportunity to compete internationally for Team USA for the first time next month.
“That’s something that I’ve been waiting three years to finally do, to compete on the team, because I’ve been on the team now for three years,” Bob Hobkirk said. “When I got that letter from Team USA saying that I’d made the team, I was pretty proud to see that and to get the uniform, it’s got USA on it and your name on it. It’s a great feeling, that’s for sure. To be able to go and represent your country at a World Championship like that.
The World TriathlonChampionship Series will take place from July 13 through July 16.