After President Obama eased travel regulations with Cuba on Thursday, 25 American athletes announced that they will participate in a triathlon in Havana. It will make them the first-ever Americans to compete professionally on the island.
Two hundred twenty athletes are expected to compete in the Habana Camtri Triathlon, January 24 and 25, in downtown Havana, reported USA Today. The event includes triathlons of three different distances: a sprint with a .47-mile swim, 12-mile bike, and 3.1-mile run; an Olympic with a .93-mile swim, 25-mile bike, and 6.2-mile run; and a long course with a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike and 13.1-mile run.
The event will be Cuba’s first ever to welcome American athletes, according to the International Triathlon Union (ITU), the sport’s international governing body.
USA Triathlon board president Barry Siff learned about the Habana Camtri Triathlon at an ITU meeting. He asked athletes on Facebook if they wanted to participate, and the 25 spots filled in moments, USA Today reported. It took about three months for the U.S. Treasury Department to clear the athletes to compete in Cuba.
“This isn’t about politics,” Siff told USA Today. “It’s about showing our support for the Cubans who are trying to grow triathlon.” Though Cuba has a national triathlon team, the country’s participation rate in amateur events is low compared to the United States.
ITU and a Spanish chapter of the Cultural Society of Jose Marti, an international Cuban cultural group, are hosting the event. The organizations shipped triathlon infrastructure, like metal crowd barriers, timing equipment, and bicycles, to Cuba and will leave it there afterward for future races.