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Will the sport of triathlon Jump the Shark in 2011?

Posted Jan 20 2011 6:08pm

Henry_Winkler_Fonz_290x400 By Jumping the Shark, will there come a moment when something that was once great has reached a point where it will now decline in quality and popularity. Take for instance the origin of the phrase from – “Jumping the shark is an idiom used to denote the point in a television program's history where the plot spins off into absurd storylines or unlikely characterizations.

These changes were often the result of efforts to revive interest in a show whose audience had begun to decline.” The origin of this phrase comes from a Happy Days episode where the Fonz jumped a shark on water skis. Thus was labeled the lowest point of the show.

When will triathlon decline? Will it ever?

Triathlon in general has grown by leaps in bounds, even in the midst of a sputtering economy and great recession. Will it come to a climax and taper off? Will Triathlon be the next bubble to burst like the automotive industry, housing market, and the technology bubble of the 90’s?

Not even close. Triathlon has yet to become main stream and has yet to scratch the potential of becoming a staple of American lifestyles.

Let’s look at USAT numbers on who’s doing what in the sport and for how long.

- June 2010, USAT members numbered 135,000.

- From 1993-2000 is hovered between 15,000 and 21,000 members.

See the chart to realize each year but from 1993 to 1994 the sport has grown.

USAT member by year-1

The average is 16% growth and 2010 complete year totals are not accounted for.

It’s also important to see what the age distribution is.

Older people tend to not participate in the sport after their health declines or they pass.

The future is in the youth. According to USAT memberships, under 16 makes up for 20%+ of the sport. That screams a BOOM for the younger generation and the growth makes one think as that age group matures in the ranks, they will grow and filter to the next groups and encourage their kids to get into triathlon in the future.

The US population is currently 311,925,331 people. Triathlon makes up less than 1% of the US population. I think they have room to grow.

Note this is USAT registrants only as some events are not USAT sanctioned but we will assume that amount is negligible.

The sport has yet to really become accepted in the US. The biggest event of the year, IM Championship in Kona won by Macca in 2010, didn’t make ESPN news but maybe for a minute. It might have been a byline or snippet on a report, but by no means did it take on Super Bowl or World Series status. Mainstream PR is not reaching its full potential.

Enter Michael Pine from the UFC. Hired by WTC to fire up the Ironman PR machine, Triathlon is about to be in your face if it’s anything like the rising popularity of UFC.

The past season of Biggest Loser showed contestants from the past race in a triathlon. If they can do it on a public forum like that show, anyone watching at home can surely be motivated to look into events near them. No longer were they just running on treadmills, lifting weights and eating right. They were focused on the specifics of putting the time and effort to race a Triathlon.

Let’s not forget one Mr. Lance Armstrong. His return to triathlon has been mildly publicized as it’s more a novelty and the biggest interest is from existing triathletes. His injury status has postponed his return, however, what coverage would IM Kona receive if the former 7-time Tour de France winner snagged a podium spot in 2011?

Triathlon is gaining traction in popularity and there’s definitely a market there to tap in to with the sport only utilizing less than 1% of the US population. With Ironman’s mantra “Anyone can do it”, the participant pool is there, they just need to get them in the game!

Ryann Ryan Falkenrath writes the blog , and is a married father of two, owner of three dogs and trying to balance life, work and multisport. Ryan has participated in multisport events since 2001.  Ryan is also the Kansas Endurance Sports Examiner and you can read more of his triathlon thoughs HERE .  Contact Ryan at: or follow him on @TriJayhawkRyan

*Expressed opinions are not necessarily that of

Follow on twitter @ everymantri or view latest videos on YouTube .


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