Triathlon is an extremely demanding three-part test of athletic ability: swimming, cycling and running. Triathlon competitions are open to both amateurs and professionals and are held in all provinces in Canada.


The first recorded triathlon was held in California in 1974 by the San Diego Track and Field Club at Mission Bay. There are now more than 6 million athletes participating in the sport worldwide and almost 100 national federations. Participantion in the sport grew over 300 per cent in the first 10 years of its existence.

There are a variety of triathlon distances, including World Championship, long, and short distances set by the International Triathlon Union (ITU). The Olympic triathlon consists of a 1.5 km swim, 40 km bike, and 10 km run.

An Ironman distance triathlon consists of a 3.8 km swim, 180 km bike ride, and a 42 km run. Shorter distance events, such as the sprint triathlon, encourage potential athletes and are considered a first foray into the sport. The duathlon, aquathlon, cross triathlon and winter triathlon are subsets of triathlon in that they incorporate multiple sports in one event.

The ITU hosts the annual Triathlon World Championship Series and Long Distance Triathlon World Championship.

Triathlon in Canada

The ITU was founded in Avignon, France, but its headquarters are in North Vancouver. Its founding president, Canadian Les McDonald, is credited with getting triathlon into the Olympics. The sport has experienced significant growth in Canada, largely due to Simon Whitfield's stellar performances at the Olympic Games.

In 1992 Canada hosted the World Championships in Muskoka, Ont. Drummondville, Qué; Whistler, BC; Corner Brook, NL; and Edmonton, Alta have each hosted world calibre events. Triathlon Canada is the governing body of the sport in Canada, and it is estimated that nearly 50 000 Canadians compete yearly.

International Competition

The annual Ironman triathlon in Penticton, BC, is one of the world's most renowned long distance races. In 2012 it was announced the Ironman will no longer be held in Penticton and will be moved to Whistler in 2013.

Notable Canadian triathletes at Ironman and international distances include sisters Sylviane and Patricia Puntous, who twice dominated the famous Hawaii Ironman, with Sylviane placing first and Patricia second in both 1983 and 1984; Joanne Ritchie, who won the 1991 World Championship; and Carol Montgomery, who won two World Cups and a World Championship silver medal in 2000.

The greatest triumph for a Canadian triathlete was the stunning gold medal finish for BC's Simon Whitfield at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. It was the first year that triathlon was an official Olympic event. Whitfield won silver in 2008 and has amassed a total of 12 world cup wins in addition to his gold and silver Olympic medals. Paula Findlay is the first female Canadian triathlete to win a World Championship Series event, and in 2010 she became the only woman to win back-to-back world championship events.