Andrew Messick: The Globalizer

World Triathlon Corporation CEO Andrew Messick sees few limits to his sport's reach. Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The staff at Inside Triathlon asked: Which 10 people had the most influence on triathlon in the United States in 2012?

The list, ranked in order of impact, was chosen based on 2012 happenings and not based on influence since the creation of triathlon. It reflects the group of people who are directing the future of the sport, are changing the general perception of the sport -- positively or negatively -- or are molding minds within the sport.

When the count was in, high-profile athletes Lance Armstrong (No. 2), Chrissie Wellington (No. 3) and Chris McCormack (No. 4) came close, but no one touched the sport quite like ...

No. 1 Andrew Messick

World Triathlon Corporation technically got its start in 1978 when a field of 15 started the first running of the Ironman, held on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

The Ironman wasn't the first triathlon, but it was the most influential -- drawing coverage from Sports Illustrated and ABC Sports that would augur a boom in multisport. Today, with nearly 190 events spread across 27 countries under its umbrella, 90 of which are Ironman or Ironman 70.3 races, WTC claims it has the "largest participation sports platform in the world."

RELATED: Most Influential, Nos. 5-10

In 2011, Andrew Messick took over as CEO. He seemed to acknowledge fear of WTC's power within the industry and its perception as a bully when he delivered a keynote address at the Tri America Conference in early 2012, saying, "I come in peace." With a year at the helm under his belt, the general reaction to Messick's leadership style and willingness to communicate has been a collective sigh of relief. When the USADA investigation of Lance Armstrong was announced, Messick elected to enforce WTC's admittedly imperfect rule stating that athletes under investigation could not race in WTC-owned or operated races. By doing so, he prevented the inevitable firestorm that would have been set off once USADA's evidence against Armstrong was revealed.

Messick's previous corporate leadership roles as VP of NBA International and president of AEG Sports, the owner of more venues, sports teams and events than any company in the world, suggest the emphasis on the word "world" in the company's moniker.

Messick's vision for the global growth of triathlon? Long-term in nature, given shape by the nations with growing economies and the concurrent middle class looking for health and fitness lifestyles.

"There are very substantial parts of the world that have yet to be exposed to triathlon," Messick says. Where economies are developing and a middle class is emerging, he added, the triathlon lifestyle can be a big draw. "Consider places in South America like Argentina, all throughout Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East; there's a role for us in all of those places."