1… 2… 3… Go!!!

August 26th, 2011 | By Marjie No Comments

It’s a perfect triangle … swimming, riding a bike and running.  Most children love to do all three, so the triathlon is a great combination for kids of any age.

USA Triathlon, governing body of the sport in this county, has seen its membership more than double in the past six years, and almost 1/4 of them are kids!  In fact, the number of youth that have joined USAT has increased by almost 150% in the same six years.

With the popularity of Ironman competitions spreading worldwide and the increased coverage of other world-class triathlon events such as the Olympics, youth are finding themselves drawn to this rigorous but obviously enjoyable sport.  And here in Athens, with a climate that allows almost year-round outdoor training, triathlons are one of the fastest-growing sports.

Take Sam Williams and Harris Smith, 15-year-olds from Athens.  Sam, a student at Athens Academy, and Harris, a home-schooled student, competed in their first Ironkids competition last year.   Right now for training, they usually work on two of the three spots most days, depending on how their week is set up.  They work out about 12 to 15 hours each week, plus focused strength training for another couple of hours each week.

For youth, triathlons are usually age specific, with children eight and under competing in one class, 10 and under in another.  Once kids reach 14, they can compete as adults.  Adult triathlons consist 400 700 meter swim, 16-20 mile bike ride and a 5K run…  Ironkids competitions have significantly shorter distances, but they are still quite challenging.

Michael Williams, Sam’s father and a certified triathlon trainer, says, “It’s good, safe fun.  The boys were about 10 when they became interested in triathlons and began training.  They want to be the best they can in this sport.  Do they have dreams of competing in the Olympics?  Maybe, but right now they’re just having fun, learning a lot and getting in terrific shape.”   Williams is also pursuing scholarships related to triathlon participation.  With the increased interest in the sport at colleges and universities, young athletes have opportunities that didn’t even exist a few years ago.

As we were going to press with this premiere issue of Athens MOVE, the Tri To Beat Cancer was held at Sandy Creek Park in Athens.  It’s a 400-meter lake swim, 14-mile bike ride and 5K run, and its proceeds help the Cancer Foundation of Northeast Georgia provide immediate financial assistance to local cancer patients struggling financially due to their cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Gary LeFeuvre, Executive Director of Athens MOVE, was on hand for the event this year.  “There were hundreds of participants, which was wonderful,” says LeFeuvre, “but for me, the best part was seeing at least a dozen youth taking part.  Knowing that we are highlighting youth triathlon participation in this issue, and then being able to witness them in competition, was very exciting.”

So, how do you or your children get involved in triathlons?  Here in Oconee County, you can contact the Classic City Triathlon Club at http://www.classiccitytri.com, or you can seek training via http://www.wowbootcamp.net.  Your local library will have resources, too.

Triathlons have been part of human competition for hundreds of years.  As they grow in popularity, you may find yourself hooked on the sport, too!

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