The first recorded swim/bike/run triathlon took place in San Diego, California on September 24, 1974, consisting of a 5.3-mile run, followed by a 5-mile bike ride and a 600-yard swim. One athlete in that triathlon, John Collins, was influential in the sport’s development by creating the first Ironman triathlon, inspired by a debate over who were the most-fit athletes: runners, swimmers or others. He took three existing events – the 2.4-mile Waikiki Rough Water Swim, the 112-mile Around-Oahu Bike Ride and the 26.2-mile Honolulu Marathon – and combined them into one event in February 1978. The first Ironman event featured just 15 competitors. Two years later a Sports Illustrated article led to 106 entries, including two women.
By 1988, the IOC was intrigued by the sport and began discussions to include it in the Olympic program. Canadian Les McDonald was selected to be president of a working committee for triathlon. On April 1, 1989 the International Triathlon Union was created with McDonald as its first president. In its initial congress, the ITU set the Olympic distance at a 1.5km swim, a 40km bike ride and a 10km run with the first world championships held in August 1989.
Triathlon debuted at the 1995 Pan American Games, one year after the IOC Congress approved it to become a full medal sport at Sydney 2000.