In the early part of the 1970s a group of competitive friends questioned the most difficult of three individual sports, swimming, bicycling and running. The Ironman was a new multi-sport born that day. It was an exhibit of extreme human capability as the competitors pushed through three enduring events. Since then, the triathlon has gained a respective following. Each year thousands of men and women compete in Ironman distance races with hopes of qualifying for the main event in Hawaii. Trends have not excluded those preferring a shorter challenge establishing the sprint, international and half-Ironman distance races. Popularity of the sport led to the international distance debut in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney Australia.
The international distance for the triathlon includes a 1.5-kilometer swim, 40-kilometer bike and a 10-kilometer run. It is an event combining speed and endurance competing over a shorter race than the Ironman cousin. Favored competitors are generally different then those winning the Ironman race. Recent Ironman race winners Craig Alexander and Chrissie Wellington could opt out of the London 2012 Olympics. Representatives from Canada, United States and Australia may likely be favoured competitors in the next Olympic triathlon event. For now, it is too early to tell.
Fans watching the 2000 debut were not disappointed over the exciting race. Canada was expected to field a strong men and women team. It was Switzerland's Birgitte McMahon who crossed the finish line first in this two-hour race ahead of second place Michellie Jones from Austria by only 2 seconds. For the men it was Canada's Simon Whitfield met expectations ahead of Stephan Vickovic from Germany by 13 seconds. Both races set new Olympic records since it was a first in the Olympics.
In 2004, New Zealand established themselves as serious Olympic Triathlon competitors winning both gold and silver in the men's race. Hamish Carter and Bevan Dicherty finished first and second with 8 seconds between them. Austria's women showed their strength when Loretta Harrop finished 6 seconds behind Australian Kate Allen. In 2008 Portugal showed they could compete in the new Olympic sport placing Venessa Fernandes second to Australia's Emma Snowsill. Simon Whitfield received his second Olympic medal placing second to Germany's Jan Froden. Past Olympic results show the 2012 Olympic Triathlon will be up for grabs.
The 2012 Olympic Triathlon can be viewed in the Hyde Park venue, a large park in London. The race will start with competitors charging into Serpentine Lake followed by cycling around the outer portion of the park. Great Britain athlete Helen Jenkins has her eyes set to win in London. Her three-year training plan is structured specifically towards this goal. She will need to hold off potential teammate Chrissie Wellington, three-time winner of the Hawaiian Ironman. For the men, South Africa may have the opportunity to win a top spot with Triathlete Henry de Villiers a recent winner of the London Triathlon. The fourth Olympic Triathlon will bring a level of excitement to London in 2012.