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Although it comprises three long-established disciplines, triathlon first appeared on the international sporting scene very recently. It was invented in the 1970s by the San Diego Track Club as alternative workout to traditional track training. The Club held the first official triathlon event in 1974, which featured a run under 8.5 km, an 8 km cycle and a swim just short of 550 m. The sport grew in popularity throughout the 1980s. In 1989, the International Triathlon Union (ITU) was founded in Avignon, France and the first Triathlon World Championships were held.  

Brief overview of the rules

The triathlon race format at the Olympics for both the women’s and men’s events consists of a 1500 m swim, a 40 km cycle and a 10 km run. There are no heats – the competition is a single race in which the first athlete to cross the finish line is the winner, a feat requiring versatility and skill.

The Tokyo 2020 Games will feature a new event in addition to the men’s and women’s individual events – a mixed relay. The relay see teams of two men and two women compete over a short‑course triathlon, which is a fast-paced, unpredictable format.

Olympic history

The World Cup series began in 1991, with 12 races contested in nine different countries. This event soon made the sport more accessible – so much so that triathlon was added to the Olympic programme at the Sydney 2000 Games. As triathlon is a relatively new sport, no country has been truly dominant. The 39 medals awarded in six Games have been split between 16 countries, none of which has won more than three gold medals (Great-Britain).

Events in 2024

Triathlon will take place on July 30th, July 31st and August 5th.

  • Individual (women’s / men’s)
  • Mixed relay (mixed)

Venue in 2024

Pont Alexandre III

International organisation

International federation : World Triathlon

© Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

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