Hyde Park will welcome the world’s best triathletes for one of the most exciting and high profile events at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The precise origins of Triathlon are unknown: some say that the sport began in France between the wars, others that it really developed in the United States during the late 1970s. Whatever the true history, Triathlon is now one of the fastest-growing sports in the world, and the London 2012 competition in Hyde Park promises to draw enormous and enthusiastic crowds.
Did you know?
The world’s leading competitors take less than one hour 50 minutes to complete an Olympic-distance triathlon.
The first Olympic Triathlon champions were Brigitte McMahon (Switzerland) and Simon Whitfield (Canada).
Transitions are crucial in determining the final results, as athletes can gain or lose valuable time on their rivals when they are taking off their wetsuit and putting on their shoes.
Each country is limited to six athletes (three men and three women).
Field of play
The course is a 1,500m swim, followed by a 43km bike (seven laps of a 6.137km course), finishing with a 10km run (four laps of a 2.5km course). Download a map of the course
History of Triathlon at the Olympic Games
More than half a million spectators lined the Sydney streets to watch the first ever Olympic Triathlon at the 2000 Games. The six Triathlon events held since the sport’s Olympic debut have been won by athletes from six different countries: Canada and Switzerland in 2000; New Zealand and Austria in 2004; and Germany and Australia in 2008.
Find out more about Triathlon at the Olympic Games on the International Olympic Committee website.
Triathlon races combine swimming, cycling and running, in that order. Events are conducted over a variety of distances: for the Olympic Games, the men’s and women’s Triathlons will consist of a 1,500m swim, a 43km bike ride and a 10km run. The race is completed from start to finish, with no breaks. The transitions between the swim, the bike and the run are part of the race – crucial seconds can be gained or lost in the transition area.
There are no heats; both the men’s and women’s events consist of a single race. The first athlete to cross the finish line is the winner.
Officials are assigned to many different areas in a Triathlon competition: the start and finish, the transition areas, lap counting, timing, wheel stations, penalty boxes and vehicle control. There is also a competition jury that rules on any protests or appeals.
Keys to success
Triathletes are all-rounders: great swimmers, great cyclists and great runners. The event is gruelling and the winning athletes have exceptional reserves of stamina. They also need the tactical ability to plan their races, move from one stage to the next, and keep strong until the end.
Breaking the rules
Around the course athletes can incur time penalties for various infringements. This can happen, for instance, for blocking or impeding another athlete; not completing the transition fully (eg, keeping the bike helmet on to complete the run); or cycling in the transition zone. Time penalties are served either in the transition area, or in a penalty box during the run.
Transition: The changeovers between the three elements of the race.
Transition time: The time it takes each competitor to complete their transition. These times are counted in their overall time for the race.
Transition area: A location within which each athlete is allocated an area for the storage of clothing and equipment.
Penalty box: An area on the run course set aside for the implementation of a time penalty for an infringement of the rules.
Mount line: A line at the exit from the transition area on to the bike course after which athletes must mount their bicycles and proceed. There is also a dismount line at the end of the bike course, at the entrance to the transition area.
If you want to find out about triathlon in your country, including clubs, facilities and coaching schemes, check the website of your National Governing Body. The National Governing Body for Great Britain is the British Triathlon Federation