By Verne Scott1
September 2011

Background: “Triathlon” first appeared as an Olympic event in 1902 consisting of a long jump, shot put and 100 yard dash. It is reported in 1921 the Petit Perillon swim club in Marseilles, France held an event for a bike, run and swim. Triathlon first appeared in the US in the mid to late 1970’s in California. It is generally recognized that the first triathlon was held on Mission Bay, San Diego, California on September 25, 1974. However, Eppies Triathlon, consisting of a run, paddle and bike combination was held July 27, 1974 in Sacramento, CA, and it is a patented/registered event. The Dolphin Club in San Francisco organized an event in 1976 held in Aquatic Cove and on Fisherman’s Wharf. The first Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon was held in Honolulu in 1978 based on the combination of three well-known, local, endurance events.

1982: The idea that the emerging sport of triathlon should have a governing body was a topic of conversation in California as early as 1980. In 1982 two independent groups organized for the purpose of creating a governing body.

On February 16, 1982 the United States Triathlon Association (USAT) founded by James Gayton and John Dieterdick, met for the first time. It defined two major needs for triathletes and the sport: increased public awareness of the sport and an organization to govern and represent the sport.

On March 15, 1982, Swim Magazine publishers, Harald Johnson, MIchael Gilmore, and Penny LIttle organized the first meeting of the American Triathlon Association (ATA). They too were aware of the growing number of triathlons and participants, and recognized the need for a national organizational structure to provide guidance and aid in developing the sport. Among items discussed at the first meeting were memberships, a national newsletter, insurance coverage, bylaws, and committees. Speedo and Fleet Feet, each donated $500 to ATA to start up the organization.

On April 9, 1982, the two organizations held a joint meeting in Sacramento CA. A decision was made to merge and become one national body. The organization retained the name “United States Triathlon Association” as a title. Key people involved were: Harold Johnson, Michael Gilmore, James Gayton, John Disterdick, Sally Edwards, Carl Thomas, Jim Curl, Dave Horning, Rick Delany, Mark Montgomery, Dave Scott, Scott Tinley, Penny Little, Bill Thomas, Cheryl Lloyd, Scott Pholins, Dave Carlson Joe Oakes, Sue Kinsey and Walt Cannon. Members agreed to meet bi-monthly at various locations in California.

At the July 1982 meeting in Los Angeles, it was reported that a draft of the Bylaws and the Operating Code were written, insurance was being researched, and approximately 50 individuals had purchased membership. A Board of Directors was established with James Gayton (President), Sally Edwards (Senior Vice President), Dave Horning (Vice President), Gail Cannon (Secretary), and Harald Johnson (Interim Executive Director).

In August 1982, the Bylaws and Operating Code were approved. Verne Scott and Sharon Brockman were added to the Directors list, and Guidelines for sanctioning events were approved. The first sanctions were approved for the Horny Toad Triathlon in San Diego and the Ironman in Hawaii.

1Verne Scott: Age group competitor since first triathlon in 1976 (Dolphin & South End Rowing Clubs Triathlon, SF, CA); Race Director, Davis, CA Tri and World Corporate Games Tri, SF, CA; Tri-Fed/USA Executive Director & Member Age Group Commission; USAT Hall of Fame and History Project member.
By December 1982, USTA had obtained three new corporate members: Specialized, Shimano and Tax and Financial Programming. In addition individual membership jumped to approximately 1500. At the close of that year, Harald Johnson stepped down as Executive Director and Murphy Reinshreiber was selected.

Swim-Bike-Run Magazine estimated there were nearly 10,000 triathletes and 200 triathlon in the United States.

1983: An insurance coverage agreement with Insurance and Risk Management was signed early in the year through the efforts of Paul Porter, and USTA turned much of its attention to the process of sanctioning events. By June 1983 it was reported that membership had grown to 1,500, and six sanctioned clubs approved. One Retail Business member and two new corporations (Triathlon Productions and Qwikfil, Inc,) provided financial support.

At the August 1983 Board meeting, the name of the organization was officially changed to Triathlon Federation/USA. This was done in an effort to avoid confusion with the US Tennis Association and the US Triathlon Series. The Triathlon Federation/USA (Tri-Fed) was designated as the “Official Governing Body” for the sport of triathlon. At that time 46 races had been sanctioned by the Federation, and the USTS Championship at Bass Lake, California was designated as the first National Short Distance Championship and the Oxford Triathlon in New Jersey the National Long Distance Triathlon.

The Board also established East, Central and West Regions with five governors representing each of these regions. Later in August, the Tri-Fed headquarters was moved from Los Angeles to San Diego.

In September 1983 the first official Triathlon Federation/USA Newsletter was published and mailed to members.

In October the Directors meeting was held at the Kona Surf Hotel, Kona, HI. The responsibilities of the Board members were redefined, and it was determined 15 Directors would serve for a one year term.

At the end of 1983 Triathlete Magazine estimated the number of triathletes in the US had grown to 250,000.

1984: In January a new Board of Directors was elected including: Conrad Will (President), Jim Curl (First Vice President), Morgan Nico (Second Vice President), Murphy Reinschreiber (Secretary), Sally
Edwards (Treasurer) and Denis White (Executive Director).

General responsibilities of Board Members were expanded to include: acting as liaisons between Tri-Fed and the respective state associations, promoting and carrying out goals of the Federation and endeavoring to secure new members.

In February the second national Newsletter was published. In addition an agreement between the Federation and US Amateur Athletic Travel Card was signed, which offered a special travel discount to Tri-Fed members. Membership was reported to be climbing upwards towards 3,000. Membership on the Board of Governors increased from 15 to 30. Another issue of the Newsletter was published and distributed in May. In June three $1,000 Charter memberships were purchased by Patrick Bowlen, Steve Christensen and Jon Noll.

The US Short Course National Championship designation for 1984 was awarded once again to the USTS Championship at Bass Lake, California. The Midwest Triathlon Classic in Austin Minnesota was selected as the 1984 US Long Course Championship.

In October Denis White resigned as Executive Director. An Interim Steering Committee, headed by Carl Thomas was organized. Included were: Jon Noll, Sally Edwards, Paul Porter, Steve Hegge, Al James and Denis White. The purpose of the Committee was to serve as a Board working actively on specific projects which required immediate attention.

In December Verne Scott was appointed Executive Director for a period of three months. Later his appointment was extended until a new Board of Directors was formed. Under Scott’s direction, the Federation increased its membership and number of sanctioned events significantly.

At the close of 1984, Tri-Fed/USA had approximately 1,600 members and over 100 sanctioned events.

1985: In January Mike Ryan accepted the position as Chair of the Board of Governors, which included two members from each state in order to provide “grass root” participation. The same month the Federation’s national office moved from San Diego to Davis, California.

Early in 1985, The Federation’s Newsletter name changed to “Triathlon Times” and published and distributed on a quarterly basis in February, April, June and October.

In April the first series of triathlon publications became available. There were: Guidebook for Safety Standards and Competitive Rules; Tri-Fed/USA Management Directory; and Race Directors Manual. The Guidebook was the first published safety standards and competition rules for the sport was authored by Al James with input from several Board members, race directors and others. The Directory served as the “yellow pages” of the Federation with names of Board Members, retail and club members, sponsors, media and other involved with the Federation. The Manual was designed to aid race directors in organizing and managing their event. The publication costs of the Guidebook and Manual for 1985 were sponsored by Southland Corporation.

A membership Sweepstakes was established in early 1985 as an incentive for Tri-Fed/USA members to recruit new members. First prize was two round-trip plane tickets to the 1985 US National Short Course Championship in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Bike Kase donated two hard-shell bike carrying cases as second prize.

In June the first National Board of Governor’s meeting was held in Springfield, Illinois, to chart the direction of the sport and its young, national governing body. Carl Thomas stressed triathlon’s entry into the Olympics. Other major issues addressed were: competitive rules on drafting, referees at sanctioned events enforcing the rules, such as helmet requirements and drafting, and rules applying to canoeing - a sport involving a growing number of triathletes.

Other matters on which action was taken included: a uniform set of competitive rules, increasing the number of sanctioned events, improving the Federation’s creditability as the voice of the sport, providing service as a clearing house for training and technical information, promoting event safety, enforcing competitive rules and sponsoring championships.

It was generally agreed that critical issues were: increasing individual memberships through clubs; offering membership incentives; race day insurance at sanctioned events; offering Federation members entry-fee discounts at sanctioned races and requiring mandatory membership at sanctioned events.

The International Triathlon Team Cup (ITTC) Competition was established in order to encourage participation of national teams in international competition. The proposal was approved with the first short Distance competition held at the USTS Bud Light Triathlon in Chicago, Illinois in July 1985, and another in Kona, Hawaii at the Bud Light Ironman World Championship for the Ultra Distance.
The concept of National Teams was established with Tri-Fed being responsible for selecting members of the US Triathlon Team to compete in the International Triathlon Team Competition (ITTC), and other international and national events. The first ITTC was included in the Chicago US Triathlon Series event in August. The Federations’s team won first place.

The Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors and Board of Directors was held in Hilton Head, South Carolina September 25-30, 1985. Elected officers included: Jon Gray Noll (President), Al James (Senior Vice President), Sally Edwards (Vice President), Linda Helgeson (Secretary), Bob Seeds (Treasure) and Mike Ryan (Chairperson of the Board of Governors. Verne Scott’s term as Executive Director was continued.

Topics discussed included: Medical safety, sports marketing, rules and regulations, insurance coverage, membership benefits, plans for training and coordinating race officials and criteria for participation in Tri-Fed National Team events.

In addition three appreciation awards were presented to members of the Board stepping down as Directors, namely Carl Thomas, Harald Johnson and Jim Curl.

The decision was made to increase the number of regions from three to ten in order to increase opportunities for and participation in championships at the regional level; increase communications and coordination of events; and greater grass-root involvement. New regions designated were: New England, Mid-Atlantic, South East, Mid-East, North Mid-West, South Mid-West, Rocky Mountain, North West and South West.

At the Board of Directors meeting in October 1985, at the Hawaii Ironman, policies and procedures for sanctioning state and regional organizations were developed.

In November a new range of official distances and titles were approved, namely: Short (formerly Sprint) with the Swim 1-2k, Bike 25-50K and Run 5-10K; Long with Swim 2-4K, Bike 50-100K and Run 10-30K; and Ultra with Swim 4+K, Bike 100+K and Run 30+K. A range of distances was decided upon due to the impracticality of standardizing the physical distances due to environmental conditions.

The 1985 US National International Distance Championship was awarded once again to the Bud Light USTS Championship in Hilton Head, South Carolina. The National Long Course and the Staged Ultra Distance Championships were awarded to the Cascade Lakes Triathlon in Bend, Oregon and the Big Island Ultraman in Hawaii, respectively.

Approximately 230 races were sanctioned by Tri-Fed in 1985, nearly double the number for the previous year. Statistics compiled for these events showed 70% international distance, 15% long distance, 7% short distance and 4% ultra distances.

It was estimated that over 115,000 triathletes participated in sanctioned events for the year.

A meeting was held in San Diego, California, December 13-15 to discuss the concept of a Commission of National Triathletes (elite triathletes). Other topics covered were promotional and travel information , rules, safety requirements and championship events.

Membership in the Federation had grown to 2750 by the end of the year.

1986: The cost of a Tri-Fed Membership was established at $15.00. This provided the member with automatic insurance coverage while competing in sanctioned races and allowed up to $5,000 in medical benefits and $25,000 in accidental death coverage. This program was negotiated by Paul Porter. There were five additional membership options providing members with an array of benefits at additional cost.

In April 1986 the Board of Directors met in St Petersburg, Florida in conjunction with the St. Anthony’s Youth Triathlon and the Tampa Bay Triathlon. Topics of major discussion included: status of the sport as an Olympic event; availability of liability insurance for triathlon; recent publications (The Guidebook, and Safety Guidelines and Competitive Rules); and the need for a major youth program.

For the second year a Membership Sweepstakes was held to recruit new members. First prize was one round trip ticket to the Bud Light USTS and Tri-Fed’s Short Course Championship in Hilton Head, and the second prize was a Bike-Kase.

On April 25 Karl Wagner organized the first Tri-Fed National Collegiate Triathlon Championship at the University of Illinois. The race was an international distance event with each College/University allowed to enter one team consisting of three (3) men and women, respectively.

The 1986 Annual Board of Governors meeting was held in conjunction with the Board of Directors meeting July 25-27 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Discussion focused on membership events, and election of five people to the Board.

After months of consultation with race directors, triathletes, insurance companies and others, a policy was approved by the Tri-Fed Executive Committee, Board of Directors and Board of Governors on July
27 requiring insurance licensing for all participants in Federation sanctioned events effective January 1, 1987.

An important factor contributing to the approval of Required Insurance Licensing (RIL) was the Federation’s application to the US Olympic Committee (USOC) for membership. In preliminary contacts with USOC, it strongly recommended the Federation consider a move towards required licensing, thus identifying a large membership base of athletes actively involved in the sport.

A major consideration in adopting the new policy was the increasing complications facing race directors in obtaining adequate and reasonably priced liability and medical insurance. It was intended to ease the burden of race directors by sanctioning safe, well-managed races, thereby providing evidence to the insurance carrier that sanctioned races are “good risks”.

In addition each licensed triathlete was provided a membership/license card, ten national newsletters with sanctioned event calendar, access to discounts on magazine subscriptions, travel and lodging for events, a bumper sticker and a voice in the future of the sport.

Three categories of licenses were issued: open, elite, and age group (experienced or novice). These self-designated categories helped to differentiate the highly qualified, competitive triathletes from the age group, novice or recreational athletes. The triathletes selected the category in which they wanted to be registered.

A related policy established a One-Day/Event Insurance License (EIL) which was selected and administered by the race director. It cost the entrant (either an individual or a relay member ) $9. It provided full insurance coverage for that event but did not included any other benefits of the regular license.

Other topics were: experience with the drafting rule, setting the age group divisions at five (5) year increments, and agreement that the Tri-Fed news would be printed in conjunction with the new publication “Triathlon Today”.
On August 17 representatives from four continents, including Carl Thomas and Verne Scott met in Almere, Holland to confirm support for a world governing body. The proposed Constitution and Bylaws for the Federation of International Triathlon (FIT) were modified to include a General Assembly and an Administrative Council. The General Assembly would include members from all Triathlon Federations around the world which qualify as being formally organized and representative of a specific nation. The Assembly would be responsible for developing policy for the world organization, and would meet at least every other year. The Administrative Counsel would be based on Continental representation. Its function would be to put Policy Decisions of the Assembly into effect. The Counsel would meet at least every year.

In addition, the international distance of 1.5K swim, 40K bike, and 10K was accepted as one of a range of world championships. Also the Tri-Fed Competitive Rules were adopted as a working document. Finally, support was given to the New Zealand Triathlon Association to include the Triathlon in the 1990 Commonwealth Games.

The first National Championship for Physically Challenged was held on August 31 in cooperation with the V.A. Hospital in Palo Alto, CA Nine individuals and one relay team competed in a highly emotional and successful event.

In September, the third Board of Directors meeting was held at Hilton Head, SC. New sanction requirements for the 1987 Tri-Fed Guidebook were outlined and approved. It was agreed Ross Lab would sponsor Race Directors’ seminars and publications. An oral agreement was approved by majority of the Board with “Triathlon Today” to include the Federations’s “Triathlon Times” within 4 pages along with eight regional inserts in exchange for a charge for each Federation member and use of the membership list.

A policy was established that all individuals participating in 1987 sanctioned events would be required to use hard shell helmets approved under the specifications of the American National Standard Institute (ANSI) or Snell Foundation. This action brought the biking portion of the sport into conformity with the US Cycling Federation requirements for helmet use.

A Sanctioned Club-Insurance Program (SCIP) proposed by Paul Porter was established to include comprehensive liability coverage for bodily injury and property damage for regularly scheduled club activities, such as seminars, clinics, training sessions (with two or more members), social events, use of non-owned automobiles, intra-club triathlons, club training activities and camps.

An Officials Program was developed and organized by R. E. Jimison in 1986 which involved Tri-Fed trained officials and race marshals supervising the general conduct of the athletes and the event in accordance with the Guidebook’s Safety Standards and Competitive Rules.

On November 1, Federation representatives Dave Curnow, Jon Noll and Verne Scott met with the Membership Committee, United States Olympic Committee (USOC) in Dallas TX to explain the scope and nature of the sport of Triathlons and to answer the questions concerning the Federations’s application for membership. The USOC explained minor changes needed in Tri-Fed’s Bylaws before the application could be accepted. The Membership Committee voiced concern in two areas, namely lack of membership and verification of the sport being an international sporting activity.

Carl Thomas and Paul Porter represented Tri-Fed at a meeting in Europe of The General Assembly of International Federations (GAIF) - a forum for sports bodies which met once a year. They lobbied for inclusion of triathlon as an international sport.

There were three events in the 1986 International Triathlon Team Cup (ITTC) competition. The first was in the International distance category on July 20 in Comox, British Columbia, Canada. The second was the 1986 Japan Triathlon series in Sendai Japan on July 20. It was also an International distance event. The Ultra Distance event took place on October 18 at the Hawaiian Ironman. The US ITTC teams had a strong year winning all three of the team contest.

Participants in Japan were: Linda Buchanan, Kirsten Hanssen, Dian Gerard-Rives, Kurt Madden, Bob White and Verne Scott. The Ironman team members were: JoAnn Ernst, Liz Bulman, Juli Brening, Nancy Harrison, Dave Scott, Scott Tinley, Chris Hinshaw and David Evans.

In 1986 there were four National Championships. The Short Course Championship was awarded to the Boca Pointe National Short Course Championship. The USTS Hilton Head, SC was the site for the International Distance championship. The Cascade Lakes Triathlon in Bend, OR was once again the site for the National Long Course Championship. The Ultra Distance National Championship was the Bud Light Endurance Triathlon in Centerville, Cape Cod, MA.

In 1986 the number of sanctioned events increased to 350 as follows:

% By Distance

% By Region

Youth 3   New England
Short 13   South East 27
International 59   Mid East 16
Long 11   Mid West 22
Ultra 2   Rocky Mtn 6
Canoe   West Coast 24
Biathlon 9  
Relay 1      

It was estimated that over 125,000 triathletes participated in 1986 sanctioned events. Tri-Fed membership increased to 5,589.
1987: The first regional program was organized by J. R. Davison on January 24 and was identified as the Mid Atlantic Triathlon Workshop. The primary purpose was to present to race directors ways race management could be improved.

On February 20-22, the first Race Director’s Conference was held in Dallas, TX under joint sponsorship with Exceed Sports Nutrition.

Topics covered included: race sanctioning and insurance, safety standards, rules, enforcement, officiating and promotion with the intent of producing safe, fair event that comply the Federation safety standards and rules. Featured experts were: Al James, Jon Noll, Valerie Silk, Bob Laird, Carl Thomas, Harald Johnson, Dave McGillivray and Verne Scott. Presentations were made by outstanding triathletes, such as Dave Scott, David Evans, Paula Newby-Fraiser and Joanne Ernst.

At the March meeting of the Board of Directors in Columbus, OH the policy of Special Events was implemented to provide fees based on the number of participants and to broaden the base of participation, encourage individuals with limited skills, provide for year-round multi-skilled events and to accommodate youth, physically challenged, relays and duathlons. It was decided to provide a Federation banner for each sanctioned event.

On recommendation of the Bicycle Specifications Committee, the first list of approved helmets was published based on liaison with the US Cycling Federation.

In April members of the Boards of Directors held a long-range planning meeting to guide the Federation over several years.

By May there were 15,300 members who paid the annual license fee of $15.

The Annual meeting of the Federation was held in Muncie, IN on August 20-30. The Board approved a management plan proposed by Verne Scott, Executive Director. It detailed the structure and responsibilities of the Federation and its staff. Membership of the Board of Governors totaled 108 persons.

Committee membership was confirmed by the Board on the following Committees and number of members: Alternate Skills (6), Biathlon/Cyruthon (6), Legal/Legislation (5), Championship Selection (6), Clubs/State and Regional Organizations (50), Insurance (3), Masters (12), Marketing and Promotion (10), Medical (4), National/International Sports (4), National Teams (4), Officials (7), Open/Elite (8), Race Directors (6), Safety and Rules (10), Bike Specifications (3), and Youth (5).

The Board confirmed adoption of 27 policies developed since 1985. These policies were major contributions of the Board of Directors to the history from 1983 to 1987 and were basic tenets of the Federation. Many of these are still part of current functions. They are summarized in Appendix A.

Ten (10) Officials Training Clinics were conducted during the year under the management of R. E. Jimison. 111 officials were certified.

A major Marketing Program, organized by Kelly Ryan, Federation staff member for Marketing and Promotion, was approved with a variety of objectives, such as: individual and corporate Contribution Opportunities, product coupons, and financial sponsorship for publications, Race Directors conferences, Championships, National Teams, Official’s Program, Ranking system, National Triathlon Training Center and Youth Program.

By December 1 the Federation had approximately 34,000 licensed members and had sanctioned over 300 events.

On December 21 Verne Scott resigned as Executive Director. An interim management team handled the affairs of the Federation until Rod Farley, Federation Comptroller, was appointed Acting Executive Director in January 1988.

The history cited above was generated by dedicated, resourceful and visionary women and men. Primary contributors were Board of Director members and officers from 1984 to 1987 supported by talented and hard working Tri-Fed staff. Of special note was the leadership and support provided by Jon Noll, who served effectively as President. Others who helped were countless race directors, officials, age group and elite athletes, sponsors, local officials and others too numerous to mention. Their help is gratefully acknowledged.

On a personal note, the support and tolerance of my family is acknowledged including spouse Dorothy, and kids Patti Scott-Baier and Dave and Jane Scott.

Comments, suggestions and corrections are encouraged and should be addressed to:
Verne Scott
1331 Hecla Dr #231
Louisville, CO 80027




January   Championship Sanction Fees
February   Membership Mailing List
    International Cup Series
    Refund of Sanction Fees and Insurance Premiums
    1985 Sanction Fees/Schedule and Modified Fees
Experimental Project to include Canoes as a Substitute for Swimming in Sanctioned Events
Qualifiers for Tri-Fed/USA National Championships
Director’s and Officer’s Liability Insurance

Marketing and Promotion
Express/Late Sanction and Insurance Fee
Triathlon Definition and Multi-Skilled Activities
Tri-Fed/USA Championships

National Hall of Fame
Qualifying for Tri-Fed/USA National Championships


Use of Tri-Fed/USA Logo
Youth Program
Guidelines for Events with Prize Money

Development of Intercollegiate Triathlon
Physically Challenged

Age Group - Five Year Increments
Sanction of Events Conducted Simultaneously

Distribution of Prize Money and Awards
Age Determination for Competition


Special Event Program

Statement of Ethics
Financial and Audit Committee
1Verne Scott: Age group competitor since first triathlon in 1976 (Dolphin & South End Rowing Clubs Triathlon, SF, CA); Race Director, Davis, CA Tri and World Corporate Games Tri, SF, CA; Tri-Fed/USA Executive Director & Member Age Group Commission; USAT Hall of Fame and History Project member.