A “triathlon” is defined as a three-part sports discipline comprising swimming, cycling, and running. The three sports are contested as a continuous event without a rest. The triathlon can be an individual or team event over varying distances.
Triathlon is considered by some to have its beginnings in 1920s France. According to triathlon historian and author Scott Tinley (and others), the origin of triathlon is attributed to a race during the 1920s–1930s that was called variously “Les trois sports”, “La Course des Débrouillards”, and “La course des Touche à Tout.” This race is held every year in France near Joinville-le-Pont, in Meulan and Poissy.*
Modern Triathlon history dates back to the early 1970s and originated with the San Diego Track Club. The triathlon was designed to be an alternative to hard track training. The first triathlon event was held on September 25, 1974. Don Shanahan and Jack Johnstone are pioneers in the history of the triathlon. The San Diego Track Club sponsored the event. The triathlon then comprised a 10km run, 8km cycle, and 500m swim. In 1989, the sport was awarded Olympic status and featured for the first time at the 2000 Sydney Olympics in Australia. Since then, the sport has grown in popularity. In fact, no other sport achieved Olympic status in such a short time. Over the next decade, the triathlon grew by leaps and bounds and soon gained recognition worldwide.
In 1989, the International Triathlon Union (ITU) was founded in Avignon, France, and the first official world championships were held. The official distance for the triathlon was set at a 1500m swim, a 40km cycle, and a 10km run—taken from existing events in each discipline already on the Olympic program. This standard distance is used for the ITU World Cup series and was also featured at the Sydney Olympic Games.
Triathlon races are held over four distances, known as sprint, Olympic, long course, and ultra. The Olympic triathlon comprises a 1.5km swim, a 40km bike ride, and a 10km run.
After a mass start, the race remains continuous, with no stops between the three legs. Changeovers or transitions are vital to race strategy.
Women are expected to finish in just over 2 hours, with men requiring about 1 hour 50 minutes. The women race on the opening morning of the games, followed by the men the next morning.**