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Olympic History: Triathlon


Triathlon is one of two new events in this year's Summer Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee added the event to the Summer Games in September of 1994. It is the hope of the International Triathlon Union, which was established in 1989, that the event will further expose the sport of triathlon on a world-wide scope.

The ITU has set specific rules for the Olympic Games. The distances will be 1.5km swim, 40km cycle and 10K run -- the standard world-wide lengths set after the inception of the ITU World Championship. The distances are shorter than the more well-known Ironman distances (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and 26.2-mile run), forcing participants to prepare for a speed race, more than a duel of endurance.

The first known swim, bike, run triathlons were held at San Diego's (Calif.) Mission Bay in 1974 and were run by the San Diego Track Club on summer evenings. U.S. Naval Officer John Collins, one of the athletes in the first Mission Bay race, was a major influence in establishing the Ironman.

Taking three Oahu endurance events and combining them into one, the first Ironman was held in January of 1978, with only 12 participants, all of whom were men. Two years later, hundreds were showing up for the race and the showing launched TV coverage of the event - something that has happened every year since.

In 1991, the IOC recognized the ITU as the sole governing body for the sport of triathlon, and what followed was the sport's debut in the Goodwill Games (1994) and the Pan Am Games (1995).