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Tim Don, one of Britain's top triathletes, claims you have to be "a bit of a loony tune" to take on the challenge of swimming 1,500 metres, cycling 40 kilometres and running 10km without a break.

But try telling that to the enthusiasts who are making triathlon, which began life in California in the early eighties, one of the world's fastest-growing sports. In the UK alone, there are over 200 clubs catering for around 15,000 athletes from all age groups and sporting backgrounds.

In Aukland in 1990, the triathlon was staged as a demonstration event, and it attracted wildly enthusiastic crowds of tens of thousands. Since then athletes from the Commonwealth countries have dominated the sport at the highest level. Between them, Britons Simon Lessings and Spenser Smith, won every annual World Championship from 1992 to 1996.

Only the elite brigade will be on duty when the triathlon hits the Commonwealth Games at Manchester 2002 next year, however. And in training for the big event, the leading triathletes will have swum the equivalent of 25 crossings of the English Channel, cycled from London to Edinburgh 24 times and run from Land's End to John O'Groats and back.

Triathlon isn't only a sport for the super fit superstars, though. Just ask Julie Hoyle, a violinist with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, who at the age of 31 was a self-confessed couch potato in urgent need of exercise. Three years later she was representing Great Britain in the World Triathlon Championships in Australia alongside her younger sister Gill. Just ask Patrick Barnes, at 84 the oldest person to have completed a British Triathlon Association event. Just ask the thousands of people all over the world who have taken up the sport at all levels over the last 20 years.

The 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, complete with a backdrop of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge catapulted Triathlon into the big league of world sport. And Salford Quays will provide an equally spectacular setting as the competitors aim for the gold standard at Manchester 2002, the biggest multi-sporting event held in this country.

The centrepiece of the course will be the internationally-acclaimed Lowry museum and arts centre which towers over an area that also features the Imperial War Museum and, away in the distance, Manchester United's Old Trafford HQ.

The triathlon will take place on the 4 August, the final day of the Games and is sure to provide a fitting climax to ten days of world-class competition before the closing ceremony at the City of Manchester Stadium. So count yourself in!

Useful Links

British Triathlon Association

*Triathlon Schedule
*Triathlon Results
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