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Last weekend, hundreds of triathletes took to the shores of Zuma Beach in Southern California to compete in the famed Malibu Triathlon. While the 2021 event brought out the best athletes in the world, thanks to the Super League Triathlon series finale, the celebrity division draws big names from the big (and small) screens. This year was no exception, with celebs like Paul Lieberstein (“The Office”), Chace Crawford (“Gossip Girl”), and more racing in relays or individually while raising money to support Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. They join a long list of active A-listers (and, uh, B and C-listers, too) who have dipped their toes in triathlon over the last two decades. Here’s a glimpse at some of the stars who have swam, biked, or ran their way through Malibu in the past.
The Celeb: Tom Cruise
The Year: 1993
The Story: Photos from the race are hard to find, but in the 1993 event, Cruise proved he could, well, cruise on a road bike, completing the 18-mile cycle portion of a relay team in the Malibu Tri.
Fun Fact: Cruise took his interest in endurance sports even further by championing (and eventually producing) the Steve Prefontaine biopic Without Limits. According to the film’s director, Cruise was “training for a triathlon” at the time of their initial meeting, which piqued his interest in the track star’s life. While initial talks centered around Cruise starring in the film, he was deemed “too old” to play Prefontaine, who died at 24, and the role went to Billy Crudup.
The Celeb: Robin Williams
The Year: 1997
The Story: According to triathlon guru and impresario Bob Babbitt, Williams was “the first ‘‘A’ list celebrity to embrace our sport and to participate on a relay team” when he first joined the Malibu celebrity division in 1997.
Fun Fact: A cycling enthusiast, Williams competed in other events aside from the Malibu Tri. An ardent supporter of the Challenged Athletes Foundation, he raced at their annual event each year for over a decade, teaming up with paratriathlete Rudy Garcia-Tolson and Ironman legend Scott Tinley. The actor and comedian, who passed away in 2014, also collected bikes; and he owned Lance Armstrong’s Trek Madone road bike ridden during his days on the Discovery Channel pro team.
The Celeb: Jennifer Garner
The Year: 2003
The Story: The year Garner snagged her first big breakout role as Elektra in Daredevil (opposite her future husband, Ben Affleck), the then-31-year-old showed off her own stunts of the endurance kind, completing the Malibu Tri . The Alias actress made more appearances at the Malibu race through the years.
Fun Fact: Garner may not have kept up with triathlon, but she’s still an avid runner, often pictured logging miles in her California neighborhood.
The Celeb: Matthew McConaughey
The Year: 2008
The Story: In perhaps the glitziest Malibu tri to date, the 2008 celebrity field featured none other than Jennifer Lopez and her Wedding Planner co-star McConaughey (who completed the ½-mile swim, 18-mile bike ride and 4-mile run in 1 hour, 43 minutes, and 48 seconds). His partner Camila Alves greeted him at the finish holding their newborn son, Levi.
Fun Fact: Adding to the glitz factor of 2008? Cindy Crawford and her young daughter—current supermodel Kaia Gerber—were on the sidelines cheering everyone on.
The Celeb: America Ferrera
The Year: 2016
The Story: The Ugly Betty star was so proud of her 3 hour, 42 minutes finish in the Olympic-distance race that she kept her race numbers on for a pre-Emmy’s party later that night. “Left my tri numbers on cuz I earned that sh*t!” she captioned a photo of her in a black strapless dress.
Fun Fact: Ferrera was so enamoured by the transformative experience of triathlon that she penned an op-ed about it in the New York Times, titled “How a Triathlon Helped America Ferrera Defy Her Inner Critic.” She also appeared on the cover of Triathlete magazine in 2017.
The Celeb: Luke Hemsworth
The Year: 2017
The Story: No, that Hemsworth. And not the other one, either. Luke, the oldest (and shortest) of the trio of Australian brothers joined Team Westworld, a nod to his role on the sci-fi western TV HBO series. He raced alongside fellow Westworld actor James Marsden and a Zuma Beach lifeguard, and even skipped the Emmys so he could race in Malibu.
Fun Fact: Hemsworth returned to Malibu in 2019, and documented his training on the streets of Malibu on social media in the weeks leading up to the event. According to a news story, he “blitzed the [bike] field” on his neon yellow Cannondale, finishing with the fastest split among celebrities.