By Pete Williams
It’s no secret that triathlon not only has survived during the recession, it’s thrived.
Races seem to sell out faster than ever and it’s tough to keep track of all of the new events, whether it’s a sprint distance or another addition to the Ironman circuit. Here in Florida, we have more races than any other state in the country. New additions over the last year such as the Key West Triathlon in December and the upcoming HITS Triathlon Series event in January have made it possible to do a Florida race every month of the year.
This week, the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) and USA Triathlon put out some numbers that quantify the sport’s astounding growth.
An estimated 2.3 million individuals completed a triathlon in 2010, representing 55 percent growth in one year, according to the SGMA. In addition, USA Triathlon annual membership totals reached an all-time high in excess of 140,000 last year, with another 326,000-plus one-day license holders.
According to the SGMA, approximately 2,295,000 individuals completed at least one triathlon in 2010, up from 1,481,000 unique participants in 2009. Additionally, an estimated 1,978,000 individuals participated in an on-road triathlon in 2010, while 929,000 athletes competed in an off-road event last year.
The 1.9-million on-road competitors marked a 63.7 percent increase from 2009 (1.2 million participants) and a 147.9 percent increase since 2007 (798,000 participants). Additionally, the 929,000 off-road participants demonstrated 39.5 percent growth since 2009 (666,000 participants) and 92.3 percent growth since 2007 (483,000 participants).
Additionally, the SGMA estimated that there were 1.2 million core on-road triathletes and another 694,000 core off-road participants in 2010. The SGMA defines core participants as athletes that completed two or more events last year.
Further demonstrating the growth of multisport in the U.S. is the continued expansion of USA Triathlon’s annual membership base and the organization’s varied programs. In 2010, USA Triathlon reached a record total of 140,244 annual members.
By comparison, USA Triathlon had 21,341 annual members in 2000 and totaled 58,073 annual members in 2005. The high-water mark from 2010 of 140,244 annual members represents approximately 557 percent growth since 2000 and 141 percent growth since 2005. Additionally, the 140,244 annual members from August 2010 marked 9 percent growth since year end 2009 (128,653 annual members).