The triathlon is about 1,973 years younger than Taekwondo, but that hasn’t hurt the popularity of this swimming, biking and running event. While the first triathlon was held in San Diego, Calif., in 1974, the sport started making waves in 1978 when the Hawaii Ironman contest was born. Three U.S. Marines dreamed up the Ironman as a contest to win bragging rights as best athlete.

When the 2000 Olympic triathletes hit the water, they’ll have to be just as tough as marines to finish this grueling event. Competitors begin the course with a 1.5 kilometer swim around Farm Cove in Sydney Harbor, then it’s straight into a 40 km bike ride, and finally a 10 km run around the Sydney Opera House and Royal Botanic Gardens. The event begins September 16 with the women’s triathlon and offers spectacular views with Sydney Harbor and the Opera House as the backdrop.

Triathletes will have to be very careful of the view they give the spectators, though. This sport carries a penalty for nudity or indecent exposure. It can happen when athletes are frantically peeling off their wetsuits in preparation for the biking segment.

The games weren’t always so modest (see The History of the Olympics). When the long run was added in 720 B.C., the loincloth was abandoned and athletes began competing naked. The fact that women were barred from competing, or even watching, may have been a factor.

World Champ Nicole HackettCurrently, Australia has the top contenders for both men and women. Keep your eye on Michellie Hones, Jackie Gallagher, Emma Carney and reigning world champion Nicole Hackett. Aussies Chris Hill, Greg Bennett and Peter Robertson are strong contenders in the men’s competition.

Other leading triathletes include France’s Isabelle Mouthon and Hungary’s Erika Molnar in the women’s division and 1999 world champion Dmitriy Gaag of Kazakhstan and New Zealand’s Hamish Carter among the men.

Sports Waiting in the Wings

Taekwondo and triathlon made it into the of 2000 Olympics ring, but there are other contenders still waiting. Some of the sports the International Olympic Committee is considering for future games include: golf, surfing, rollerskating, water skiing, squash and lawn bowling. So get your skates and clubs out and start practicing. You may be the next gold medalist.

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