The sport of triathlon is relatively young, having only been invented in the early 1970s. It made its Olympic debut at the 2000 Sydney Games, and the sport has been growing in popularity ever since. If you're not familiar with triathlon, this list of terms will help you understand the sport before the 2012 London Olympic Triathlon competitions on Aug. 4 (women) and Aug. 7 (men).
Triathlon is a multi-sport event in which athletes complete three continuous endurance events: swimming, biking, and running. Competitions of varying distances exist, though the official Olympic Triathlon event includes a 1500m swim, a 40km bike, and a 10km run (the London bike course is actually 43km).
One of the most important pieces of equipment for the triathlete is the timing chip. This small transmitter is affixed to each competitor's ankle and remains in place for the duration of the event. The timing chip registers the exact time when the athlete crosses various timing mats and provides valuable information about his or her splits for the different segments of the competition.
Each athlete is assigned a race number for the event, which will appear on his or her swim cap, bike, bike helmet, and body (arms and legs). These numbers allow officials, photographers, and fans to easily identify competitors throughout the race.
The Olympic Triathlon swim starts from a floating apparatus called a pontoon. Drawing for pontoon positions will take place after the athletes' briefings two days before their scheduled competitions.
The Olympic Triathlon competitions utilize a mass start, so all athletes begin at once. This is in contrast to wave start events, in which smaller groups of athletes begin separately with a couple of minutes between them, and time trial start events, in which individual athletes begin one-by-one every few seconds.
Athletes keep their equipment in the transition area when not in use. Between the swim and the bike (T1) and between the bike and the run (T2), they enter the transition area to get ready for the next portion of the race. Time spent in transition is included in athletes' overall time.
Mount and dismount lines
Riding the bike is not permitted inside the transition area. As athletes exit transition, they must cross the mount line before mounting their bicycles. They must then dismount at the dismount line before entering transition again after the bike portion of the event.
Riding closely behind another cyclist is called drafting. Behind another rider, there is less wind resistance, so the drafting athlete doesn't have to use as much energy to keep up the pace. Unlike many triathlon competitions, including the Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, drafting is allowed in the Olympic Triathlon.
Time penalties are issued for breaking certain rules. Athletes who receive time penalties are required to stop in the penalty box to serve their time.
DNS, DNF, DSQ
These designations stand for "did not start," "did not finish," and "disqualified," respectively.
Jennifer Ciapala completed her first triathlon in 2007 and has been hooked on the sport ever since. She can now also call herself an Ironman after finishing Ironman Florida last November. She is only an average age-grouper, but she enjoys watching the professionals in championship events and is looking forward to catching this year's Olympic triathlon competitions.
- Sports & Recreation
- Olympic Triathlon