History of the Triathlon
The sport of triathlon was born in the 1970's in San Diego and was popularized by the Wild World of Sports' televised broadcast of the Ironman (back then there was only one) in 1978.
The sport of triathlon, combining as it did, the three most popular participatory sports in the country - swimming, biking and running - took off. The fledgling United States Triathlon Series, sponsored by Bud Light, was the first effort to codify and regularize the sport.
Because the sport was popularly seen as two tough events (swim and run) with an easy bike ride in between, original distances when USTS started in 1982 were a 2000m swim, a 35 kilometer bike and a 15 kilometer run. In 1983, at the Bass Lake Triathlon, the distances were 2000m/35k/15k.
With the sport growing ever more popular, a need was seen to standardize the distances and make them more in sync with each individual sport. USTS is credited with inventing the distances of the modern day Olympic distance triathlon. For the swim, 1500 meters was chosen because it is the standard long distance competitive swimming event. For the bike, USTS chose 40 kilometers because it was the standard solo time trial distance in bike racing. And the choice for the run was the standard road distance of 10 kilometers. Note that the distances were not chosen to be symmetrical nor were they in direct ratio to Ironman distances.
Also in the early 1980's, athletes were coming together to create a functioning national governing body. Now known as USA Triathlon (USAT), in the early 1980's it was called Triathlon Federation USA (Tri-Fed). At the time, Tri-Fed was struggling to find legitimacy and one way to do that was to hold and sanction a National Championships. The partnership between Tri-Fed and USAT was a natural fit. Tri-Fed had the ability to sanction a National Championships and USTS had the ability to produce one.
Due to a group of hard working, civic minded individuals (many of whom are still involved in assisting with the Bass Lake Classic Triathlon), USTS was invited to hold a late season race at Bass Lake. It quickly morphed into the National Championship due to its September date and the incredible dedication of the community and citizens of Bass Lake, California.
A race like Bass Lake Triathlon in 1983 and 1984 may never be seen again (although we are trying hard to make it happen!). The who's who of triathlons were at those races. Dan Empfield, publisher of Slowtwitch, Emilio DeSoto of DeSoto, Murphy Reinshrieber, future publisher of Triathlete Magazine, Scott Tinley, winner of two Ironmans, Scott Molina, the winningest triathlete of the 1980's, Dave Scott, winner of 6 Ironmans and future race directors Bill Leach, Rick Kozlowski and Mark Montgomery were all present. Literally, almost every person responsible for the birth and success of the sport of triathlon raced in Bass Lake in 1983 and/or 1984.
The Bass Lake Triathlon was about so much more than a race. It was a celebration of the brand new sport of triathlon. Athletes were welcomed by a fabulous pasta dinner and included in the post race party, featuring 1970's super group Papa Do Ron Ron.
This year's Bass Lake Classic Triathlon boasts a great race on the same great course. Our pasta dinner will be gourmet in quality and our Bluegrass and BBQ Awards Post Race Party will be amazing.
Scroll down to enjoy some classic images.