Growing the Sport of Triathlon | Sports Destination Management

Growing the Sport of Triathlon

Women’s Collegiate Triathlon Hits a Milestone While USA Triathlon Invests In The Growth Of Youth Multisport
May 12, 2022 | By: Stephen Meyers

While 2021 saw a welcome return to racing, 2022 brings further momentum in the growth of the sport of triathlon.

The spring and summer racing season is jam-packed with local races across the U.S. USA Triathlon will once again host a sold-out Toyota USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships event this August in Milwaukee. Also, the organization debuted the new USA Triathlon Multisport National Championships Festival Presented by Toyota April 28-May 1 in Irving, Texas.

In addition, USA Triathlon is investing more than $100,000 to increase racing opportunities and access for current and prospective youth athletes, supporting a new Gravel Triathlon Series, and, in exciting news for the future of the sport, women’s collegiate triathlon reached a major milestone in the journey to becoming an NCAA Championship sport.

The future is bright for triathlon.

Milestone Reached for NCAA Triathlon

Photo Courtesy of Thomas Fernandez

In February, Cal Poly Humboldt in Arcata, California, became the 40th school in the nation to offer women’s triathlon at the varsity level. By securing the 40th school to add a women’s collegiate triathlon program, triathlon is now close to becoming an NCAA Championship sport. This is a monumental achievement for the NCAA Emerging Sport for Women that has met the 10-year window to demonstrate sustainability at the NCAA varsity level.

Triathlon now has a few more steps to take on its way to being fully managed by the NCAA as a Championship event, including committee, council, divisional and budget approvals. These details will be worked out, and USA Triathlon will continue to add more programs to grow the sport at the collegiate level.

“This collective achievement is not only important for the sport of triathlon and multisport community, but it comes on the 50th anniversary of Title IX and sends an unquestionable message that women’s sports are thriving and are here to stay,” said Tim Yount, USA Triathlon Chief Sport Development Officer.

The process of adding women’s collegiate triathlon started more than a decade ago by USA Triathlon staffers pondering how the sport could keep its talented junior athletes in the triathlon pipeline, while also introducing triathlon to a new, younger and more diverse demographic. NCAA was the perfect fit.

“Seeing how much NCAA triathlon has grown over the past four and a half years from when I was a freshman to now as a fifth-year graduate student is inspiring for the future of women’s triathlon. Pursuing triathlon in the NCAA was one of the best decisions of my life. It feels so special to be a part of the movement and to contribute to the growth of the sport,” said Hannah Henry, Arizona State University triathlete.

With 41 schools, including ten Division I schools and two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), women’s collegiate triathlon is on the way to becoming an NCAA Championship sport, which will open the doors for more athletes to follow in Henry’s footsteps.

Return to Racing Youth Stimulus Package


In a commitment to help get youth moving again as we move forward from the pandemic, USA Triathlon plans to invest more than $100,000 throughout 2022 to increase opportunities and access for current and prospective youth athletes across the multisport community through the 2022 Return to Racing Youth Stimulus Package.

The 2022 Return to Racing Youth Stimulus Package includes the following:

• Free youth event sanctioning

• Free youth clinic sanctioning

• Free registration for youth clubs

• 10 free youth memberships for every youth sanctioned race and youth club

• Expansion of Youth Scholarship Program

“The Youth Stimulus Package encourages all our industry professionals to produce more educational clinics, host additional youth events and start new youth and junior clubs. We can’t wait to get to work with our community and grow the sport,” said Rocky Harris, USA Triathlon CEO.

Throughout the year, USA Triathlon will donate 10 free youth memberships directly to race directors and clubs for every youth sanctioned race and youth club. Race directors and clubs are encouraged to distribute these memberships to underserved and underrepresented youth and communities at their discretion.

The USA Triathlon Foundation’s Youth Scholarship Program affords members of the multisport community the opportunity to donate USA Triathlon youth memberships to deserving children as each $10 donation to the USA Triathlon Foundation buys one youth membership. The Youth Scholarship Program is an extension of one of the foundation’s three pillars, Encouraging Youth Participation, which provides training opportunities, equipment and resources to underserved youth and helps create the next generation of multisport athletes and leaders.

New Multisport National Championships Festival

Showing that triathlon is much more than swim, bike, run, the new USA Triathlon Multisport National Championships Festival presented by Toyota encompasses six of USA Triathlon’s National Championship events, bringing to Irving, Texas, the nation’s best run-bike-run, swim-run, swim-bike and swim-bike-run athletes.

The national championships in Irving, include:

• Draft-Legal Triathlon National Championships

• Duathlon National Championships (standard and draft-legal sprint distances)

• Aquathlon National Championships

• Aquabike National Championships (standard distance)

• Super Sprint Triathlon Time Trial National Championships

• Age Group Mixed Relay National Championships

Duathlon is a run-bike-run combination — not to be confused with biathlon, which is the official term for the Olympic and Paralympic sport of skiing and shooting. Typically contested in run-bike-run formats, duathlons are varied in length.

Aquathlon combines running and swimming, while aquabike is a swim-bike combination.

Athletes of all ages, sizes and abilities can find a multisport discipline that’s right for them.

Don’t like the swim? Try a duathlon. You’re a strong swimmer? Use your advantage in the aquathlon. Running is hard on your body? Aquabike would be a great fit.

That’s the beauty of multisport – there’s always a race for you, your abilities and experience.

And a fun team element — the Mixed Relay Triathlon National Championships brings together teams of four (two women, two men), with each team member completing a 250m swim, 5K bike, 1.2K run super-sprint distance triathlon. The Mixed Relay made its Olympic debut at last summer’s Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, as the U.S. team of Katie Zaferes, Kevin McDowell, Taylor Knibb and Morgan Pearson earned silver in the fast, exciting, spectator-friendly event.

New Gravel Triathlon Series

You may have heard about the new craze in cycling — gravel.

An increasingly popular form of cycling that combines elements of road and mountain biking, gravel cycling consists mostly of riding over unpaved, non-technical roads. With fewer vehicles on these dirt and rural roads, gravel riding can offer a safer alternative to road cycling.

Gravel riding can also offer a fun new way to experience multisport racing. This year, USA Triathlon is partnering with local race directors across the country to host the inaugural 2022 USA Triathlon Gravel Triathlon Series, offering endurance sports enthusiasts a new way to experience swim-bike-run multisport racing at gravel events in each region of the United States.

Paired with the first USA Triathlon Gravel National Championships to be held June 3 in Fayetteville, Arkansas, the innovative 2022 USA Triathlon Gravel Triathlon Series spans the multisport season from May through October and features events across the U.S., with races in New Jersey, Michigan, Texas, Colorado, Idaho and California. Race series participants will receive special USA Triathlon Gravel Triathlon Series stickers and awards, as well as recognition on and USA Triathlon’s social channels.

Unlike traditional triathlons where participants race their bikes on paved roads or highways, and unlike off-road triathlons where racers ride mountain bikes on technical, single-track mountain bike trails, gravel triathlons take place on unpaved, dirt roads such as Forest Service roads or canal paths that are non-technical.

Because of the varied terrain, riders can use a bike designed specifically for gravel riding, but mountain bikes and road bikes are often used for gravel riding, too. Most any bike will work, lowering the barrier of entry into the sport, a key aspect for USA Triathlon as the organization continues to introduce the sport to new audiences. SDM


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