Leon’s Triathlon History
Leon’s Triathlon is a historic, short-course racing tradition founded in 1983 by Leon Wolek. Known as “America’s Race,” Leon’s is 100% dedicated to the support and empowerment of the U.S. service men and women, especially injured military veterans. The event is open to civilians and military personnel alike.
Hosted each June in Northwest Indiana, just 20 minutes from downtown Chicago, the event is known to be incredibly fast thanks to a flat and traffic-free course.
The first Leon’s Triathlons were held in Leon’s hometown of Hobart IN, at the Isaac Walton, just off of I-65. The Wolek family attended many triathlons with Leon as a participant. While attending the events, they promoted Leon’s Triathlon. Leon’s Triathlon grew year after year until it outgrew the Isaac Walton. Fortunately, they were invited by Mayor Tom McDermott Sr. to host Leon’s Triathlon in Hammond at Wolf Lake to accommodate the continued growth. The family worked very closely with the Cities, Counties and State to set the standard in the sport.
Leon and his family noticed that all the major events focused on the pros and not the amateurs. They thought the amateurs needed to be showcased, so they pioneered the First National Amateur Championship, which to this day continues in the sport. They also hosted one of the First Military Championships in the sport. Both were televised on ESPN worldwide and had Military flyovers after the singing of the National Anthem. Because of its completely closed course, the closing of a six lane freeway, and all three events starting and finishing at the same staging area, Leon’s Triathlon came to be known as the fastest triathlon in the world.
Because of economic development and political changes, there were some challenges that resulted in the racecourse logistics. The Wolek family felt it was time to retire the Leon’s Triathlon’s.
Throughout the next 15 years people wrote, called and emailed asking when Leon’s Triathlon would be back.
Leon finally decided to request a meeting with the current Mayor of Hammond, Tom McDermott Jr. Because of the support from his father, Mayor McDermott Sr., his son grew up knowing all about Leon’s Triathlon, known as America’s Race. Like his father he gave his support and after a 15-year hiatus, Leon’s is back.
In 2021 Leon added an obstacle course race to honor the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks on our country. With the addition of the obstacle course race, we have rebranded the triathlon to include the sister obstacle course race, and we are moving forward as Leon’s Heroes.
While growing up Leon didn’t have Superman or Batman as a hero, it was his father and military buddies at the American Legion Post 454 in New Chicago, IN whom inspired him. Leon’s Heroes are the men and women who put their lives on the line to defend our nation and constitution. We aim to create a feel of patriotism anywhere we go.
Leon’s Triathlon pioneered the first National Amateur Championship, which to this day continues in the sport and is governed by the USA Triathlon Federation. Leon’s also hosted one of the First Military Championships in the sport in 1996. Both were televised on ESPN worldwide.