The popularity of the triathlon has risen fairly quickly, given that the sport was just invented in1970. Then, the San Diego Track Union created the sport as an alternative to regular track workouts.
The International Triathlon Union was founded less than 20 years later, and by 1989, the first triathlon world championships were held. Then, the official distance of the Olympic triathlon became standardized, and today the sport consists of a 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike and a 10-kilometer run.
Olympic History: Triathlon and the Games
By 1994, the International Olympic Committee began to consider adding triathlon to the list of Olympic sports. At a September meeting in Paris that year, the IOC board voted to provisionally include triathlon at the 2000 Olympic Games. In September of 1997, IOC members approved the inclusion of the sport at the Sydney Olympic Games.
Since that 1997 meeting, triathlon has been contested for both men and women at three Olympic Games. Australia has had the most success as a country, claiming four total medals. Australia also is the only country to win a triathlon medal at each Olympic Games to date.
Olympic Triathlon Medal Winners
The first Olympic gold medals in triathlon were won by Canadian Simon Whitfield and Brigitte McMahon of Switzerland. Four years later, Hamish Carter of New Zealand and Kate Allen of Austria won gold, and in 2008 Jan Frodeno of Germany and Emma Snowsill of Australia claimed the top spots.
In the 12 years since the introduction of triathlon at the Olympic Games, only Whitfield and Bevan Docherty of New Zealand have won more than one triathlon medal. Withfield added a silver to his 2000 gold at the 2008 Olympic Games, and Docherty won silver in 2004 and bronze in 2008.
Triathlon at the 2012 London Olympic Games
In London, 55 men and 55 women are expected to compete for gold medals in their respective triathlons. The events are scheduled to take place in Hyde Park, with the women competing on Aug. 4, 2012, and the men competing on Aug. 7, 2012.
Sandra Johnson is a longtime Olympic fan. While working for the United States Olympic Committee and living in the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., Johnson had the opportunity to immerse herself in the Olympic Movement. Follow her on Twitter: @SandraJohnson46