The History of the Modern Triathlon

The legendary beginnings of triathlon can be traced back to Hawaii in 1977. Three men (one cyclist, one runner, and one swimmer) made a bet that their individual discipline required the highest level of fitness between the their prospective sports. After a series of small, local races, the inaugural Ironman was held in Kona, HI in 1978. Apparently, 1978 was a year of peculiarly unexpected events. Just to name a few: Dolly Parton graced the cover of Playboy Magazine, 900 members of Jim Jones’ congregation committed mass suicide, and… I was born.

If you consider yourself an advocate of womens’ equality, consider that triathlon is one of the most progressive sports of the 21st century. Unlike most sports, the prize purse offered in a major race, is the same for men and women. The lack of gender bias shown in triathlon is both empowering and unifying, as it increases the value of women’s sports and brings men and women together in the same competitive field. When an Ironman commercial aired regularly on ABC’s popular Wide World of Sports in 1980, triathlon began to become a household name.

As the popularity of triathlon continues to grow, its enduring value in the current sports climate becomes increasingly more evident. Despite being one of the most expensive sports to engage in, Triathlon participation continues to grow. One reason might be that a triathlon allows the athlete to incorporate his or her family into the training process. Not many sports offer this multi-dimensional, work-life-balance benefit. Most children can swim, bike or run, if not all three. Being able to spend quality time with family, while working towards your own personal athletic goals is another awesome perk of triathlon.

Triathlon has become one of the hottest sports in the world. The synergystic effects of cross-training the three disciplines produces some uniquely hard bodies. There is an impressive number of celebrities and professional athletes who boast of adding “triathlete” to their resume. Some Celebrity Triathletes include: Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, David Duchovny, Will Ferrell, Amanda Beard, Anna Kournikova, Robin Williams, Mark Vanderloo, Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey.

There are two main governing bodies in the sport of triathlon. The ITU (International Triathlon Union) represents approximately 140 countries, while 30,000 members belong to the USA Triathlon Organization. Triathlon was first featured in the Pan-American Games in 1995, and finally the Olympics in 2000. In the most recent 2012 Olympics, Americans performed well. Sarah Groff became the fourth woman from the U.S. to finish in the top four in the Olympic Games’ triathlon since it’s inception in 2000.

Past and present, Triathlon is just a super cool sport. Celebrities are drawn to it, your family can enjoy it with you, you get to compete alongside your favorite pro athletes, women are treated as equals, and it makes you feel like a kid again What more could you ask for?

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