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Triathlon History


The first recorded triathlon competition can be traced to San Diego, California. The first event was held in the beautiful Mission Bay area. From there, the sport would continue to grow in popularity.

1982 was an historical year that all triathletes should be familiar with. This is when the U.S. Triathlon Association and the American Triathlon Association joined together and become the U.S. Triathlon Association. In 1983 the name was changed to Triathlon Federation USA and is commonly called Tri Fed.

The direction of the sport was charted out in the summer of 1985 when a meeting was held to set objectives, establish uniform rules, determine enforcement procedures and schedule events. Fall of the following year brought about a meeting with the U.S. Olympic Committee to see what needed to be done in order to be accepted as an Olympic sport. With the goal of Olympic inclusion of the sport in mind, two important events were created in 1989, the International Triathlon Union and an event featuring Olympic distances for the Triathlon World Championship.

Ancient Olympic games were no stranger to an event like the triathlon. In ancient Greece, the pancration and the pentathlon were Olympic events. The pancration was a sporting event that combined wrestling and boxing. It was a crowd favorite. The pentathlon combined the five sports of discus, javelin, long jumping, running and wrestling. With a history like that, it is easy to see that the triathlon was a perfect fit for an event that would reflect the legacy of ancient Greece.

As membership continued to grow, by August 1990 the Triathlon World Championship, held in Orlando, Florida, hosted over one thousand athletes from forty different countries. This gained official recognition by the International Olympic Committee and the triathlon was one step closer to becoming an Olympic sport.

On July 23, 1994,, Russia hosted the very first Goodwill Games Triathlon in St. Petersburg. This was a critical step to the goal of being accepted as an official Olympic sport. One more step toward official inclusion in the upcoming Olympics was a triathlon competition held at the Pan American Games in 1995 in Mar De Plata, Argentina. And in the year 2000, the first Olympic triathlon was scheduled at the Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.

Olympic recognition of the sport opened up new financial opportunities for the organization. Shortly after the Sydney games, the organization changed its name yet again, to USA Triathlon. This name would allow even closer connection with the governing bodies of Olympic sports. The organization now had multiple national teams as well different programs for athletes who performed on many different levels. The organization also had their own coaches and officials.

The first Olympic medal that USA Triathlon could proudly call its own was won in 2004. Susan Williams of the United States team brought home the bronze from the Athens, Greece games.

For the Summer Olympic Games scheduled to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016, a milestone event for the sport is scheduled. Making its debut will be the para-triathlon at the 2016 summer Paralympics. Proud, strong racers will participate as spectators cheer them on and witness that physical impairment cannot hold back the heart of a true athlete.

From its humble beginnings in 1982, membership has grown from 1,500 to over 170,000 today. The organization conducts over three thousand annual event. Working these events throughout the year are over five hundred race directors. Competing in these triathlons are over nine hundred official clubs. Training these athletes are over two thousand certified coaches. The triathlon is here to stay.