Tri at the Olympics: Sydney 2000

It’d taken years of planning, deals, courting, boycotts and, with the implementation of draft-legal racing, a fundamental change to the nature of Olympic-distance elite triathlon. But finally, on 16 September 2000, triathlon’s time in the Olympic Games spotlight had arrived.


The women were the first off the Sydney Harbour starting pontoon, with hometown girl Michellie Jones the overwhelming favourite for the title. Jones had won the Sydney World Cup races/test events in May 1999 and April 2000 to establish herself as the main athlete to fear in the dominant Australian women’s team.

In front of an expectant crowd, Jones and Switzerland’s Brigitte McMahon would be level-pegging throughout until the Swiss 33-year-old broke free late on the run to break Aussie hearts and become triathlon’s first Olympic champion. McMahon’s victory may not have been as out-of-the-blue as some have suggested (the Swiss athlete beat Jones in Lausanne a month before the Olympics), yet the Swiss athlete would never scale such heights again and retired from the elite circuit in 2005 after testing positive for blood-boosting EPO.