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EXPLAINER: Triathlon at Tokyo Olympics

/ 09:45 PM July 09, 2021

Things to know about the Olympic triathlon race at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics:

THE ABSOLUTE BASICS

Athletes take part in the cycling portion of the men's triathlon at Fort Copacabana during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 18, 2016

Athletes take part in the cycling portion of the men’s triathlon at Fort Copacabana during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 18, 2016. (Photo by Yasuyoshi Chiba / AFP)

The Olympic triathlon is a continuous race beginning with a 1,500m swim followed by a 40km bike ride and then a 10km run.

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The switch between each leg is called the transition (T1 and T2) and athletes have honed their technique so that they barely break stride while removing/adding the kit for each leg.

Failure to stack kit safely can result in time penalties.

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In Olympic distance races, “drafting” or slipstreaming is allowed during the bike leg.

HOW MANY MEDALS?

There are three sets of medals available: men’s and women’s races and a mixed sprint relay with teams consisting of two men and two women.

WHAT HAPPENED IN RIO?

USA's Gwen Jorgensen wins the gold medal in the women's triathlon at Fort Copacabana during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 20, 2016.

USA’s Gwen Jorgensen wins the gold medal in the women’s triathlon at Fort Copacabana during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 20, 2016. (Photo by Leon NEAL / AFP)

Briton Alistair Brownlee became the first athlete to win double Olympic triathlon gold when he followed up his London triumph. His younger brother Jonathan, who won bronze in 2012, went one better with a silver in Rio.

In the women’s event, Gwen Jorgensen delivered gold for the United States, with 2012 champion Nicola Spirig of Switzerland taking silver and Briton Vicky Holland outsprinting flatmate and best friend Non Stanford for the bronze.

WHAT CAN WE EXPECT IN TOKYO?

With so few races over the last 18 months form is tough to establish. Johnny Brownlee looks in shape to challenge to complete his medal set but Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt emerged from lockdown as the form man. France is favorite for the relay having won the test event in 2019 as well as the last three world titles.

WHAT’S NEW?

The mixed relay. After debuting in a major tournament at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, it has proved a popular and TV-friendly fast-paced event, with athletes swimming 300m, cycling 8km and running 2km before tapping the hand of their teammate to take over.

WHEN IS IT HAPPENING?

Men’s race July 26, Women’s July 27, Mixed Relay July 31.

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WHERE IS IT HAPPENING?

Tokyo Olympics

FILE PHOTO: Bystanders watch as giant Olympic rings are reinstalled at the waterfront area at Odaiba Marine Park, in Tokyo, Japan December 1, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo Bay, an urban beach resort that has hosted Japan’s national championships for more than 20 years.

HOW DID WE GET HERE?

The sport of triathlon was established in 1974 when a race was organized in San Diego, California. It spread and developed internationally, with all sorts of distances and variations. The current “Olympic distance” was formalized ahead of the sport joining the Games in 2000.

WELL FANCY THAT

Despite inventing the sport and producing some of its greatest proponents, the United States has never won a men’s Olympic medal.

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Remolino fails to finish Olympic triathlon qualifier in Japan 

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