SIX WEEKS of Triathlon Heavenchampionship Season Kicks Into High Gear
TheTour de France celebrated its 100th anniversary this year. American football? Its origins date back to 1892. Hockey? There’s some debate on when and where that all started, but we do know that the Montreal Gazette published official rules for the game in 1877.
Triathlon? We’re babies in the sports mix. While the first swim, bike and run event took place in San Diego in 1974, the event that is credited with really putting the sport on the map took place on Feb. 18, 1978 in Honolulu, Hawaii. It was the brainstorm of John and Judy Collins during an awards banquet in 1977 for the Waikiki Swim Club. John proposed combining the Waikiki Roughwater Swim with 112-miles of the Around- Oahu Bike Race (originally a two- day, 114-mile event) and finishing with a 26.2-mile run on the same course as the Honolulu Marathon.
“The gun will go off at about 7 a. m., the clock will keep running and whoever finishes first we’ll call the Ironman,” Collins said. There were 15 starters and 12 who finished, including Collins, who finished in just a few seconds over 17 hours.
Fast forward 35 years and you have triathlon of the 21st century. Collins’s time for that first race? Wouldn’t even get him an official finish today – the Ironman cut off is 17 hours. Ironman might be the marquee event in the sport, but one could argue quite easily that the Olympics is the sport’s biggest race, even though it’s only held once every four years. In just over three decades the sport has grown exponentially – there are triathlons of almost every distance these days including super sprints to half- Ironmans to three- day Ultraman races.
Evidence of how far the sport has come will be clear this fall over a six-week period that includes four championship events that will draw the absolute best in the sport. It begins on Sept. 1 with the Hy-Vee 5150 U. S. Championship Elite Cup, Des Moines, Iowa which offers the richest Olympic distance prize purse in the sport. The following weekend sees the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Henderson, Nev. ( just outside Las Vegas). The week after that features London in the spotlight again, a little over a year after hosting the Olympic games, with the International Triathlon Union ( itu) World Triathlon Grand Final (and also the itu Age Group World Championship). The wild six weeks of racing ends with the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii on Oct. 12.
While the distances couldn’t be more different, the ties are strong. One of the finishers of that first triathlon in 1974 was Judy Collins. Before he went on to found the itu, Les McDonald won his age group in Kona five times. Over the intense month-and-ahalf of racing, Lisa Norden will try to win both the 70.3 world title and the Hy-Vee championship. Greg Bennett will try to do the same. Tim O’Donnell could be in the hunt for three titles – Kona, Vegas and Des Moines. The other aspect that ties all these events together is the fact that each and every one will have a strong age group component
For fans of the sport, it doesn’t get any better than this. Get ready for six weeks of triathlon heaven.