Welcome to trihistory.com

History, it has been argued, is written by the victors. But In this case, it is being written by a few of us who were there and are willing to write it. A fool’s errand, perhaps.  Surely, the question will be asked and answered: Does anyone really care? Time will tell.  

Why trihistory.com?  Well, why history of anything at all? Historians are driven to remember, record, interpret. It feels almost genetic. You’re either interested in the past or you’re not. It means something to you or it doesn’t.  But if it does -- and particularly if it’s connected to a physical activity in which you are actively, perhaps even passionately, involved – you’re all in. We’re interested in the history of triathlon for the same reason we’re interested in the history of our families, our parents; it matters how it all came together. It matters because we are both players in the ongoing genealogical drama and products of all that has gone before. 

The Latest Features

Friday, December 12, 2014

Was Marseilles, France the original Fiesta Island? (Paul Cezanne's The Gulf of Marseilles as seen from Lestaque) 

People love to celebrate birthdates for the sake of celebration, a bit of history, and a few beers. And in the case of the first triathlon, TriHistory.com is guilty of this charge.  Forty years to the hour after 9/25/74, when forty one participants gathered on those boggy and incomplete shores of Mission Bay, a bunch of us gathered and drank beer. And celebrated our locally-global history. Much ballyhoo was awarded San Diego’s Fiesta Island; the group back-slapping each other…damn we were young and bitchin’ then. So prescient, so tan. Ground frickin’ zero not a two wood and a seven iron from here.  

But were there other triathlons before that inaugural September 25, 1974 evening catalyzed by race directors Don Shanahan and Jack Johnstone? And if so, where did they go? Do they matter? Did we miss them in our xenophobic flurry of self-congratulation?

Did they serve beer at the finish?

The Third Olympiad of the Modern Games held in St. Louis, Missouri, 1904, included a three-sport competition. Won by an American known only as Emerich, the event consisted of the long jump (21 feet, 7 inches), shot put (32 feet, 3 inches),and the 100 yard dash (10.6 seconds). In many Olympic Almanacs and resource guides the event in question is referred to as a “triathlon.”

Thursday, December 4, 2014

By the end of the 1980's, triathlon had established itself as a full-fledged sport. There were athletes making a living from it, companies were developing products to support it, and best of all if you happened to be sitting next to a stranger on an airplane and you started up a conversation with them you didn't have to explain what an Ironman was anymore. They had either done one themselves or at least knew someone who had done one.

TriHistory.com hosts founders and legends in a wide-ranging opverview of the sports first four decades. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Anniversary Roundtable was professionally filmed and recorded for future use.  

Forty years to the day after the first triathlon was held on the shores of San Diego's Mission Bay, the pioneers of the nascent sport that combined swimming, cycling and running into an Olympic event and a lifetime passion for millions of people worldwide returned to this city for a historic reunion to swap anecdotes and share experiences about the early days of triathlon.

Nina Kraft's long road back from doping disgrace

Monday, September 1, 2014

Nina Kraft in Clermont, Florida. "I want it to be like 2001, and have fun. I want to let go of what people are thinking." 

A somewhat shorter version of this story originally appeared in Inside Triathlon magazine in 2007 - Ed.

After she made a disastrous choice to take EPO in 2004, after she disgraced herself on the sport's most sacred stage, after all her nobler rivals deplored her act and the triathletes in her country shunned her like a leper, and after she shook with guilt for the shame she had brought on her loving family – Nina Kraft looked back on more innocent days when her frequent smiles were returned.

Notebook

“Foxcatcher” Opens is Wide Release To Favorable Reviews

Monday, November 17, 2014

Steve Carell (center) as John DuPont, flanked by co-stars Channing Tatum (left) and Mark Ruffalo. The Team Foxcatcher logo was very familiar in triathlon circles in the mid-1980s.

Starring a physically transformed Steve Carell as the eccentric millionaire/sportsman John E. DuPont, "Foxcatcher" opened to wide release on Friday, Nov 14. In the words of The New York Times reviewer Manhola Dargis, it is and "eerie horror story" about a rich man "who collected monumental amounts of shells, birds and stamps and...other human beings."

The movie delves only into DuPont's disastrous and ultimately murderous patronage of amateur wrestling, but among the human beings DuPont collected were triathletes. Back in the mid-1980's members of the Foxcatcher triathlon team took frequent trips to the podium at races across the country. The team starred Ken Glah, and included, at various times, Glah's wife at the time Jan Wanklyn, Joy Hansen, Jan and Diane Girard, Brooks Clark, Jeff Devlin and Steve Fitch. Several of the Foxcatcher triathletes lived on the DuPont estate in rural Pennsylvania and trained at DuPont's Foxcatcher Training Center, the primary setting of the film.

DuPont had had some experience in modern pentathlon and fancied himself a multisport pioneer, going so far to bill himself as the "The American Eagle" and "Father of Triathlon in the Americas." He was an odd man at the best of times, but "things went really bad when his mother died (in 1988)" Glah recalls.

According to people who knew DuPont, he desperately wanted to be an elite athlete, but lacked the talent. His patronage of sports was his way of compensating for his competitive shortcomings, allowing him to associate with, and even guide, the level of talent he lacked.

DuPont's involvement with triathlon is an historical footnote (It's not even mentioned on the John DuPont entry on Wikipedia), but it was significant at the time, and lends a somewhat bizarre insider's note for triathletes who watch the current film.

Multisport Sponsor Clif Bar Terminates Five Sponsored Climbers, Citing Extreme Risk

Monday, November 17, 2014

Alex Honnold, in a free-solo climb of Mt. Sentinel, in Yosemite, was one of the extreme climbers whose sponsorship was revoked by Clif Bar, as the company sought to distance itself from excessive risk. Pete Mortimer photo 

Clif Bar, a longtime sponsor of multisport events and athletes, recently announced that it was terminating its sponsorship of five high-profile adventure climbers on the basis of the extreme risks the climbers take, according to The New York Times.

"We have and always will support athletes in many adventure-based sports, including climbing," the company wrote in an open letter to the climbing community that appeared on its website And inherent in the idea of adventure is risk. We appreciate that assessing risk is a very personal decision. This isn't about drawing a line for the sport or limiting athletes from pursuing their passions. We're drawing a line for ourselves. We understand that this is a grey area, but we felt a need to start somewhere and start now."

The Clif Bar website continues to promote a large number of its sponsored athletes in a variety of sports, including triathlon

Great Floridian Triathlon Will Turn 25 in 2015

Thursday, November 13, 2014

One of the oldest continuing ultra-distance triathlons in the world will turn 25 in 2015. Fred Sommer's Great Floridian Triathlon was first held back in 1991 and experienced a high level of growth into the new decade consistent with the boom in interest in the sport of triathlon in general and long–distance races in particular. The event has suffered in recent years, however, as the World Triathlon Corporation penetrated local markets nationwide with a sexier brand and the allure of Ironman World Championship qualifier slots.

"Our numbers have been in the tank the past few years, Sommer said candidly. "Everyone is chasing the Ironman, and there are lots of Ironman races to select from here in the Southeast."

Hoping to drive renewed interest in the GFT, Sommer's company, the Clermont, Fla-based Sommer Sports Inc., launched a bold initiative to drive entries to his anniversary event next year: All past finishers of the full-distance event – anyone who finished the 140.6-mile course from 1991-2014 – would race for free in 2015 if they registered by Nov 12, 2014. First-timers who beat the early-registration deadline had access to a reduced entry fee of $250.

"The Great Floridian Triathlon has always been the peoples race", Sommer said in a press release. "In appreciation of the tremendous support offered by age group athletes over the past 24 years we felt it would be great if we gave something back to the athletes. At the same time we are hoping the excitement associated with the 25th birthday celebration will expose the GFT to new triathletes who may only be aware of the corporate run, branded full-distance races."

On November 13, Sommer deemed the promotion a success. Four hundred race alumni had signed up, along with 150 first-timers. "Now we just need to keep the momentum going," Sommer wrote in an email to TH. "What is exciting is that I have received a bunch of emails from past participants offering to do everything they can to grow the race. We just need to capitalize on all that energy before the athletes get sidetracked with training."

Kona Notes - Go Dana!

Monday, October 20, 2014

It's not just the athletes, it's the hoards of supporters that help make the Ironman a big financial asset for the State of Hawaii. Let's hear it for Dana!

The early conflicts between the Kona locals and the Ironman event were resolved long ago. There are lots of reasons for that, not the least of which is a strong community relations effort on the part of the Ironman organization. But the enormous financial impact to the State's economy is a huge factor too. Pretty much everyone benefits – and not simply because the athletes stay on the island for 7-10 days and eat like horses throughout. Like this group demonstrating along Palani Road, at the beginning of the bike ride, the athletesoften bring entire teams of supporters with them: moms, dads, uncles, cousins, wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends. Hell, it seems sometimes like one of each. Go Dana!

Kona Notes -- Like It Was Yesterday

Monday, October 20, 2014

Standing with a photo of Julie Leach that I took 32 years ago. Seems like yesterday. 

The seawall along Alii Drive is decorated during race week with large images of former winners of the Hawaii event. It was great to see my image of Julie Leach, from the October, 1982, race, among the pics. That was my first trip to Kona; I was writing and shooting for my own publication, as well as for the debut issue of Triathlon magazine. I remember so clearly taking this shot – walking back and forth along the Highway, half-stunned to be where I was and almost breathless over the drama I was witnessing – from as close up as I wanted to be. Those early days were golden for the few of us covering the sport. If you had a press pass you could go anywhere. I did.