The History of Triathlon - Part II: Putting the Wheels in Motion

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The ITU Is Born

March 31 to April 2 of 1989, in Avignon, France, there was a meeting of 30 national governing bodies representing triathlon from all five continents, five members of the UIPMB and members of the press. The goals included creating a unified world governing body for the sport and to decide whether to affiliate or not with the UIPMB for a path into the Olympic Games.

An explosive meeting room broke into arguments over delegation credentials, proxies and certain delegates. There was plenty of political lobbying, stratagem, confrontations, allies formed, and finally some agreements. The new International Triathlon Union (ITU) was formed with 26 national governing bodies paying membership fees to the new organization. Four additional nations agreed to pay dues by a July 1 deadline.

As for joining the UIPMB, the group voted against immediate affiliation because UIPMB leadership wanted control over the sport. Triathlon wanted autonomy within their organizational structure. However, a motion passed to attempt to negotiate with UIPMB executive committee for future membership.

Before the congress adjourned, an election for key offices was held. Top office results included:

President: Les McDonald (Canada)
Vice President: Jean Cote (France)
Secretary: Sture Jonasson (Sweden)
Treasurer: Carl Thomas (USA)

The work had only just begun and the ITU needed a headquarters. Loreen Barnett, whose home was already the headquarters of Triathlon Canada, would become an integral part of the ITU. The world governing body of triathlon soon began operating out of her patio-turned-spare-room for the office.

From left: Marisol Casado (now president of ITU),
Les McDonald (Honorary President) and
Loreen Barnett (current Secretary General).

It wasn't until January of 2004 that the ITU would move out of Barnett's home and into a normal office space. There was a period of time in the early ITU days that she could no longer obtain a credit card because she had overspent her limit purchasing equipment on her personal cards.

She was involved in the organization from the beginning, and her skills would eventually take her to the Executive Director position of the ITU and then the Secretary General in 2008.

But long before 2008, a lot of work needed to be done.

Finish the story in Part III: Off and Running.

Gale Bernhardt was the 2003 USA Triathlon Pan American Games and 2004 USA Triathlon Olympic coach for both the men's and women's teams. Her first Olympic experience was as a personal cycling coach at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Thousands of athletes have had successful training and racing experiences using Gale's pre-built, easy-to-follow training plans. For more information, click here. Let Gale and Active Trainer help you succeed.

Bernhardt, Gale, "Triathlon Training Basics", VeloPress, Boulder, Colorado, 2004.
Barnett, Loreen, personal e-mail correspondence with the author, December 7, 2008.
Johnson, Harald, "Shifting Alliances: Threats, bribes, leaks, lies...Welcome to the world of triathlon diplomacy", Triathlete, June 1988.
McDonald, Les, five-hour personal interview with the author at the 2008 Madrid ITU Congress, November 27, 2008.
Olivares Jr., C.J., "Power Politics: International Relations and Triathlon's Road to the Olympics", Triathlete, July, 1989.
Plant, Mike, "Trouble at Tri-Fed, Part I", Triathlete, October, 1988.
Plant, Mike, "Trouble at Tri-Fed, Part II", Triathlete, November, 1988.
Plant, Mike, "The Summit: Triathlon's Civil War Ends.", Triathlete,April, 1989.
Redman, Craig, personal interview with the author at the 2008 Madrid ITU Congress, 11/29/08.
Triathlete, "International Triathlon Conference: Fast Track to the Olympics?", November, 1988.
Triathlete, "Guarded Optimism: Avignon World Congress", June, 1988.
Triathlete, "Informer: Olympic Update", July, 1991.

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