Les has his place in history

BOB MACKIN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:25 AM ET

You probably don't know that North Vancouver is the world's triathlon capital.

That's where the Inter-national Triathlon Union is headquartered. ITU is the world's only Canadian-based sport governing body recognized by the International Olympic Committee.

All thanks to Les McDonald. A former electrician and union organizer from northern England, McDonald has been involved in Vancouver and Whistler amateur sports for more than four decades. He organized some of Canada's first triathlons at UBC.

"We were coaching kids in track and field," he said. "At that time we saw these triathlons which had been created in San Diego. We said 'hey, let's try that, it's good for the kids and more fun than running around the track.'"

Twenty years ago he got a phone call "out of the blue" from then-IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch asking him to bring triathlon to the Olympics.

McDonald's first application, via the modern pentathlon organization, was thwarted by East Bloc delegates. So McDonald founded ITU in 1989. Five years later, IOC voted to add triathlon to the 2000 Sydney Games. Victoria's Simon Whitfield was the first gold medalist.

McDonald plans to retire from the presidency after the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, but hopes ITU will remain in North Vancouver.


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